Will Hicks finally end Bears' drought of Pro Bowl defenders?
The Bears haven't had a defensive player in the Pro Bowl since cornerback Tim Jennings went after the 2013 season, but defensive lineman Akiem Hicks should get consideration this year.
For the second year in a row, Hicks leads Bears linemen in tackles with 43. He also leads the team with 14 tackles for negative yardage. His 7 sacks match his career-best.
Although most teams play a rotation of defensive linemen, Hicks is rarely off the field.
"Availability is as important as any ability," Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. "He's given us some good inside pass rush. He's been a consistent player. I think he definitely deserves (Pro Bowl) consideration."
The Bears signed the 6-foot-5, 336-pound Hicks to a modest two-year, $10 million deal in free agency before the 2016 season. He was rewarded for last year's performance with a four-year, $48 million extension earlier this year.
"His growth has been a two-year process," Fangio said. "I don't think it (was) the lights going on this year. I thought it started last year. He's a guy that had a checkered career prior to coming here. He never really fulfilled his potential. He's coming closer to doing it here.
"I think the guy can still improve and be a better player than what we are seeing now," Fangio said.
Injuries remain a problem for the Bears, but they're in better shape than the Bengals, their opponents this week.
The Bears listed safety Adrian Amos (hamstring), linebacker Pernell McPhee (shoulder) and nose tackle Eddie Goldman (hip) as "doubtful." They did not practice all week. Safety DeAndre Houston-Carson is questionable after a limited Friday practice.
The Bengals have already declared six starters out after their Monday night brawl against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Linebackers Vontaze Burfict (concussion) and Nick Vigil (ankle) will not play, nor will running back Joe Mixon (concussion), cornerbacks Dre Kirkpatrick (concussion) and Adam Jones (groin) and safety Shawn Williams (ankle). All-pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins (toe) did not practice Friday and is one of four other Bengals who are questionable.
Not good enough:
Last Sunday, for the second time this season, the Bears' defense did not allow a touchdown. But they gave up 388 total yards in the 15-14 loss to the 49ers, the second-highest yield of the season, and they allowed 10 of 18 third-down conversions.
"We didn't play good enough," defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. "We didn't have a good day on third down, which caused us to play more (snaps) and allowed them to get into the red zone."