With Super Bowl expectations heavy on their minds, the Chicago Bears will begin preparations in earnest for the 2019 season this week when they report to Bourbonnais for training camp.
As the team arrives in the Chicago suburb, we’re taking a look at 10 of the players that will have the biggest impact on the Bears’ fortunes in the coming year, and today we’re focusing on defensive end Akiem Hicks.
How 2018 Went for Hicks:
For the third straight season, Hicks appeared in all 16 games for the Bears, and his numbers have become remarkably consistent, as he racked up seven and a half sacks and 55 combined tackles in those games. He also defended five passes and forced three fumbles, both of which were career highs.
Hicks’ numbers were surely helped by the emergence of Leonard Floyd as a speed threat off the edge and the addition of Khalil Mack to an already strong pass rush, and he took full advantage of his one-on-one opportunities in getting to the quarterback.
The Biggest Question He’ll Face:
Like Kyle Fuller, Hicks is going to face a very simple question now that Vic Fangio is patrolling the sidelines for the Denver Broncos: can he continue to put up the eye-popping numbers that he did under the defensive guru that helped him take his game to the next level?
There are several reasons for optimism with Hicks, who will turn 30 years old later this year. The first has been his health, as he’s played in 16 games in each of the past four seasons and five of the last six. He has missed a total of three games in his career, and his longevity has allowed him to establish a great reputation for himself in the game.
In addition to his health, his consistent production in a variety of situations has not gone unnoticed. Hicks has had at least seven sacks in each of the last three seasons, and he’s had at least 54 combined tackles in all three years. In fact, the only number that has varied at all has been his passes defended number, and as a defensive end, that’s well down the list of numbers to pay attention to at the position.
Hicks may have a bit of a learning to do in order to work with the tweaks that Chuck Pagano will institute in the team’s defense, but as it appears he will retain plenty of the precepts that Fangio put in place, it likely won’t be too big a challenge for the talented defensive end to live up to.
With his production humming along like clockwork, we feel confident in projecting that Hicks will bump up his sack production to nine this season, and just for fun, we’re also going to predict that he will come down with his first interception of his career at some point in the coming year. It also wouldn’t surprise us at all to see him line up on offense again for the Bears, and perhaps even get a reception in the goal line offense for the team.
For more on our examination of the 10 Bears players to watch this season:
7/24 – Cornerback Kyle Fuller
7/24 – Tight end Trey Burton