The Chicago Bears have plenty of star power. Something they were able to say five years ago. When thinking about the roster as it is now, names like Khalil Mack, Eddie Jackson, and Allen Robinson headlines a formidable core in the eyes of the national media. That said, not every player who deserves the attention gets his due. There are a variety of factors that go into this. Being in a talented area of the roster doesn’t help. Being stuck in the shadow of more celebrated players at the same position is another.
Yet when one examines the numbers? It’s easy to realize the mistake of overlooking that player. In the eyes of analytics specialist Cynthia Frelund of NFL Network, that man is Akiem Hicks for the Chicago Bears. He suffers from both problems of an underrated player. He’s on the same front as the more widely known Mack while also playing the same position as Aaron Donald and J.J. Watt. So it’s hard to get noticed.
This despite clear evidence he’s a complete monster.
“One way to see how pressure fronts work best together is to look at the Bears last season. NGS shows that in the first three games of 2019, Khalil Mack earned a pressure on 16.4 percent of pass rushes. But then Hicks missed Week 4 with a knee injury and went on injured reserve with an elbow injury suffered in Week 5, and from Week 4 on, Mack was only able to generate pressure on 8.7 percent of pass rushes.
It’s worth noting that Hicks did play a little in Week 5 and came back in Week 15, so this is an imperfect measurement, but the point still stands: When offenses have to account for the potential of pressure coming from many directions, the number of double (or triple) teams decreases, and strategic play-calling can often benefit the defense.”
The Chicago Bears really missed Hicks in 2019
The thing is Hicks isn’t just all about his pass rush. Yes his presence was enormous for helping Mack dominate as he did in 2018. However, the mammoth defensive end never gets enough credit for how good of a run defender he is. Through the first four games, he was healthy last year, the Bears allowed 70 yards or more on the ground just once. After he went down in the London game, they allowed 100 yards or more nine times.
An always vital key to unleashing a great pass rush is stopping the run first. Having Hicks back alongside Eddie Goldman will do wonders for that. The guy is a complete football player and one of their biggest locker room leaders. National experts may claim they know who all the best players in the league are but not nearly enough of them mention Hicks’ name. Hopefully he can get back to changing that this season.