When the Bears played the Packers at Lambeau Field in Week 15 last season, defensive end Akiem Hicks gamely gave it a go after missing nearly nine games with a nasty elbow injury. And Hicks was still a force, with four tackles and two quarterback hits that helped keep the Bears close in a 21-13 loss. Just his effort was inspiring.
The Bears might have to lean on Hicks’ grit again if they have him at all against the Packers on Sunday night at Lambeau. Hicks did not practice Friday — or this week at all as he recovers from a hamstring injury he suffered against the Vikings prior to the bye — and is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game.
Coach Matt Nagy said Hicks’ availability will be a game-time decision.
With Roy Robertson-Harris (shoulder) also out, Bilal Nichols, Brent Urban, John Jenkins, Daniel McCullers and Mario Edwards, Jr. have given the Bears’ solid rotational depth on the defensive line. But there is no true replacement for Hicks, one of the most consistently impactful defensive linemen in the NFL.
“Akiem’s an amazing player,” Urban said. “He always makes a huge impact every time he’s in there, but like a lot of team’s have been doing this year, it’s next man up with COVID and everything. So good teams have to win without their big players in at times.”
Hicks is a key factor in combating the Packers hot-and-cold run game, which ranks 14th in the NFL but usually plays a key role in setting up Aaron Rodgers for big plays. Aaron Jones, who is averaging 66.8 yards per game and 4.7 yards per carry this season, has averaged 31.8 yards per game and 3.5 yards per carry in five games against the Bears.
Against the Vikings, the Bears held Dalvin Cook to 39 yards on 19 carries while Hicks was in the game. After Hicks left, Cook gained 57 yards on 11 carries — though 14 came on a third-and-20 play.
“It’s obviously a huge challenge,” Urban said. “Aaron Rodgers extends plays very well. You need to get pressure, you need to get interior push against him, so without Akiem it’ll be tough, but I think we’re a deep group and we pride ourselves on playing good, next-man-up football.”
Jackson activated from COVID-19 list
Safety Eddie Jackson was activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list Friday and will play against the Packers. Jackson did not test positive for the coronavirus, but was put on the reserve/COVID-19 list because he had been in close contact with someone who had tested positive.
Hope Spriggs eternal
Left tackle Charles Leno, who has started 88 consecutive games since replacing Jermon Bushrod in Week 4 of the 2015 season, did not practice Friday after suffering a toe injury in practice Wednesday and is questionable.
Veteran Jason Spriggs, who started nine games in three seasons with the Packers in 2016-18, would replace Leno against his former teammates if Leno can’t play. Spriggs previously replaced an injured Bobby Massie against the Saints on Nov. 1 and played 65 snaps, but suffered a knee injury in that game and missed the next two games.
“Spriggs is doing a good job,” Nagy said. “Most of the season we put him at right tackle and he was a little banged up and he didn’t do as well on the right side. I think he’s more comfortable on the left side.”
Quarterback Nick Foles (hip) is doubtful for the Packers game. Slot cornerback Buster Skrine (ankle), back-up guard/tackle Rashaad Coward (ankle/knee) and special-teams ace Sherrick McManis (hand) are questionable.