Chicago Bears' Hicks 'hurt' by Pro Bowl snub

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks reacts to a play against the Detroit Lions Sunday at Soldier Field in Chicago.

    Chicago Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks reacts to a play against the Detroit Lions Sunday at Soldier Field in Chicago. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 12/21/2017 6:06 AM

For the second straight season, Akiem Hicks has been the Chicago Bears' most valuable defensive player, and for the second straight season he has set a personal best for sacks.

With two games remaining, the 6-foot-5, 336-pound six-year veteran already has 8 sacks and a career-best and team-high 15 tackles for lost yardage. He leads the Bears with 16 quarterback pressures and is first among the team's linemen with 48 tackles.

 

But when it came to this year's Pro Bowl voting, the only thing all of that got him was a spot as a fourth alternate at defensive end.

Talk about getting coal in your stocking.

"Man, it's like telling a kid he ain't getting no presents for Christmas, you know what I mean?" Hicks said. "It hurts. But I'll be all right. I'll survive. As long as the fans in Chicago treat me as one of their favorite players, I'll be happy."

Hicks has been one of the few Bears worth celebrating in another season of double-digit losses, the fourth in a row if you're keeping track at home.

The lack of team success has a lot to do with the absence of personal accolades for Hicks, even though the Bears' defense is a very respectable No. 8 in yards allowed and tied for 12th in points allowed.

"My experience has been that a lot of the Pro Bowl voting, players of the week (and) players of the month (voting) have one common denominator -- it's winning as a football team," Bears coach John Fox said. "There are a few individuals that get named to the Pro Bowl every year that weren't a part of winning teams. But the list is short.

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"Akiem has played good football for us. But those things come with team success."

Hicks would have had a much better chance of making his first Pro Bowl with either of his two previous teams, the 10-4 New Orleans Saints or the 11-3 New England Patriots. The Saints had six players voted to the Pro Bowl, while the Patriots had four. The Bears had none.

"It doesn't really work out when you don't have a record to match the performance, right?" Hicks said. "I go out and lay it out there every Sunday. The respect of your peers is something you always want.

"My little high-fives after the game with other guys that play my position and stuff like that -- it gives me enough respect to carry me over this off-season."

Hicks also is at a disadvantage in Pro Bowl voting because of the 3-4 base scheme the Bears play. When they shift to nickel in passing situations, Hicks moves inside from end, usually to a 3-technique, shaded off the outside shoulder of the guard.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The three NFC defensive ends on the Pro Bowl roster all play in 4-3 schemes, which are more conducive to putting up impressive sack numbers, usually the first thing voters look at.

The Minnesota Vikings' Everson Griffen (13 sacks), the New Orleans Saints' Cameron Jordan (10) and the Dallas Cowboys' Demarcus Lawrence (13) all are among the top seven in NFC sacks.

Hicks is tied for 12th.

"I'm more of an interior defender," he said. "You're not actually out there to be a speed rusher all the time (when) your main responsibility is to rush the passer. As far as sack guys that play interior, usually they have 5 or 6; I've got 8. So statistically, when it (comes) to interior defensive linemen, I outperform."

The NFC's three Pro Bowl interior linemen -- the Philadelphia Eagles' Fletcher Cox, the Los Angeles Rams' Aaron Donald and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Gerald McCoy -- have 5, 11 and 5 sacks, respectively.

Hicks did get some love from the Bears when they signed him to a four-year, $48 million contract extension before the season.

And, on a more personal note, Hicks got some love from home.

"Mom told me I did my job this year," he said. "So I'll take that with me."

• Follow Bob's Bears reports on Twitter @BobLeGere.

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