Of course, Akiem Hicks wants to go to the Pro Bowl.
“I think it’s important to everybody,” the Bears’ star defensive end said Saturday. “Every player in the league wants to be respected by their peers and wants to be respected by the fans that come to see their product every week.
“Universally, everybody would see that as an accomplishment. I’m right in that bag.”
He’ll get his first chance to make the team Tuesday night, when the NFL announces 44 all-stars from each conference for the Jan. 29 game in Orlando, Fla.
Players are chosen by three voting blocks with equal weight: fans, coaches and players. All were due by Friday.
If Hicks doesn’t get in Tuesday, he’ll have other chances. The Bears didn’t have a Pro Bowl player originally announced in either of the past two years, but still got a total of three in as injury replacements: then-tackle Kyle Long and, last season, guard Josh Sitton and running back Jordan Howard.
Here’s how this year’s Bears stack up:
The Bears’ top candidates
The stats: Hicks has a career-high eight sacks and, for the second-straight year, has played in every game.
The argument for: Hicks signed a four-year, $48 million contract on the eve of the season and has been the Bears’ best player since.
The argument against: Hicks’ run responsibilities as a 3-4 defensive end limit his sack opportunities, so his stats aren’t ridiculous. Eight NFC defensive ends and one defensive tackle — the Rams’ Aaron Donald —have more sacks.
The verdict: He’ll get in this year —though maybe not Tuesday.
The stats: One year after finishing second in the league in rushing, Jordan Howard ranks sixth with 76.4 yards per game.
The argument for: Only four NFL players have more attempts. He’s had five games of 100-plus rushing yards; only the Chiefs’ Kareem Hunt has more.
The argument against: The NFC figures to pick three, and Howard is third in the conference in rushing. However, the Saints’ Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, who trail him, have had better seasons.
The verdict: If he doesn’t get in Tuesday, he’ll get some help: Todd Gurley, Ingram and Kamara could reach the Super Bowl, rendering them ineligible for the Pro Bowl.
The middle tier
The stats: Pro Football Focus ranks the guard as the 10th best lineman in the NFL this season. Before Saturday, per their stats, he’d allowed only 10 quarterback pressures all year.
The argument for: His reputation. Sitton has been to three-straight Pro Bowls and four overall.
The argument against: Only two teams average fewer yards than the Bears’ offense, and only four average fewer points. Does it deserve two players in the game?
The verdict: Probably depends on injuries to other guards — presuming Sitton’s own ankle problem holds up.
The stats: The rookie has totaled 348 rushing yards and 327 receiving yards. He ranks ninth in the NFL both in kick return yards (516) and punt return yards (232).
The argument for: Cohen is the only healthy Bears player to finish in the top 10 in fan vote by position; he was ninth among running backs. The NFC roster has a spot for a returner and a special teamer. Plus, it’s a TV show —perhaps the NFL wants an undersized underdog in the game.
The argument against: Cohen ranks 23rd in punt return average and 30th in kick return average.
The verdict: It’d be fun, but is unlikely.
- Cornerback Sherrick McManis was one injury away from making the Pro Bowl last year.
- Once he solved his snap issues, Cody Whitehair returned to being one of the league’s better centers.
- Eddie Jackson’s two-touchdown game might have been the highlight of the Bears’ season.
- Could Kyle Fuller be an injury replacement? Is Fuller even the best cornerback on his own team?
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