Seven thoughts on the Bears’ seven players in the Pro Bowl
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ORLANDO, Fla. — The Bears’ turnaround season under coach Matt Nagy spawned a sizable Pro Bowl contingent.
Here’s a look at all seven players (not including injured Khalil Mack) with practices starting at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Disney World on Wednesday:
QB Mitch Trubisky
Jay Cutler stabilized a troublesome position for the Bears for eight years, but Trubisky is setting a standard for the franchise — on and off the field. Cutler never made the Pro Bowl with the Bears.
Trubisky, who replaced the Rams’ Jared Goff as an alternate, had his struggles. But what if 2018 is Trubisky’s floor — or close to it?
Even though it was only his first season in Nagy’s nuanced system, he still excelled and won without the help of a reliable running game.
Trubisky’s 95.4 passer rating ranked 16th in the NFL, but it’s still better than Cutler’s career-best 92.3. Trubisky also finished third in ESPN’s total QBR.
KR/RB Tarik Cohen
Cohen was voted in as a returner, but the nod also recognizes his place in Nagy’s offense. He had a team-high 71 catches for 725 yards and five touchdowns. He also ran 99 times for 444 yards and three scores.
He’s the Bears’ most exciting player since return specialist Devin Hester, who deserves a place in the Hall of Fame. But Cohen is arguably a greater threat, especially in Nagy’s offense. To be fair, Hester didn’t have that same benefit. Cohen is the multipurpose dynamo who’s essential in today’s NFL.
LT Charles Leno Jr.
Leno is an alternate who replaced Saints offensive tackle Terron Armstead. It’s still a meaningful honor for Leno, a seventh-round pick in 2014 who has become Trubisky’s reliable blindside protector.
He isn’t the best tackle in the NFL, but Leno is much better than his critics contend. General manager Ryan Pace was happy to sign Leno to a four-year, $38 million extension last year.
C Cody Whitehair
If the Bears’ offense improves as expected under Nagy, this should become an annual honor for Whitehair, an alternate for the Saints’ Max Unger. Whitehair is the Bears’ best center since Olin Kreutz, who was voted to six Pro Bowls.
Similar to Kreutz, Whitehair emerged as a leader for the Bears, albeit with a more soft-spoken approach. Whitehair, who’s expected to receive a contract extension before next season, was voted a captain for the playoffs by his teammates.
DL Akiem Hicks
Mack helped Hicks this season, but Hicks doesn’t get enough credit for how much he helped Mack, who won’t participate in the Pro Bowl because of a sprained knee.
The Bears’ signing of Hicks in 2016 should be remembered as one of the franchise’s best in free agency. Not only is Hicks a Pro Bowl-caliber player, but his bravado and nasty streak helped change the complexion of a defense that had its worst two-year run in team history in 2013 and 2014.
CB Kyle Fuller
The Bears always will be remembered as being one pick away from drafting Rams superstar Aaron Donald (13th overall) in 2014, but Fuller (14th overall) has made it a better story to share.
It took a few years and a connection with former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, but Fuller finally turned his first-round talent into Pro Bowl production.
The Bears’ decision to match the Packers’ offer sheet for Fuller not only was the right move but a great one.
FS Eddie Jackson
It took Jackson only two seasons to prove that the Bears got a steal in the fourth round in 2017. He’s the Bears’ best playmaking safety since Mike Brown. If he can stay healthy, he’ll be better, too.
The Bears missed Jackson in the playoffs against the Eagles. The big plays that Jackson proved he’s capable of making in the secondary could have been the difference, especially when Nick Foles lofted passes to his receivers.