Bears OLB Acho feels no pressure, says he'll 'be aggressive and have fun'
LAKE FOREST -- Outside linebacker Sam Acho has been in the Chicago Bears' defense since Vic Fangio took over as coordinator in 2015, so he's one of the veterans being counted on to build off the many accomplishments of last year's group, which was ninth in points and 10th in yards allowed.
That unit is currently a bit short-handed since OLB Leonard Floyd, arguably the team's best pass rusher, is recuperating from a broken hand. The hope is that Floyd might be able to play in Week 1 with a padded club on his injured hand, though he could be several weeks away from 100 percent effectiveness.
Even though he plays the same position as Floyd, Acho says he doesn't feel additional pressure to perform, because he trusts in Fangio's scheme.
"Leonard is obviously an unbelievable player, and he'll be back soon," Acho said. "But that doesn't change my approach at all. I'm just going to continue to be aggressive and have fun and play ball."
"We have a good scheme here," the 6-foot-3, 259-pound Acho said. "There are a lot of guys who can get after the quarterback, and we have good teammates. There's a quote that Vic says: 'Good teams have good players; great teams have great teammates.' And I have some great teammates."
This is the first season that Acho comes into with the Bears as a starter, but he's actually started 25 games over the previous three seasons when others were injured. Without Floyd, no other outside linebacker on the roster, other than Acho, has ever started a game or recorded a sack for the Bears.
Most people forget that the former fourth-round pick out of Texas had 7 sacks as an Arizona Cardinals rookie because that was back in 2011. Acho had a modest total of 3 sacks last year, but that doesn't mean he was ineffective as a pass rusher. He was second on the Bears with 18 QB pressures, trailing only Akiem Hicks' 20. Acho is confident Fangio's scheme will once again create opportunities for multiple players. It worked last year when Hicks (8.5) was the only Bear with more than 4.5 sacks, yet the team was sixth in sack percentage.
For now, the group behind Acho and Floyd presents more questions than answers.
Inexperienced second-year OLB Isaiah Irving has been impressive in the preseason, but he played briefly in just seven games as an undrafted rookie last year. Unrestricted free agent Aaron Lynch had 12.5 sacks in his first two seasons with the 49ers (2014-15) but just 2.5 since then, and he has not practiced at full speed since before training camp. Unrestricted free agent Kasim Edebali is in his fifth year, but he's mostly made his mark on special teams. Sixth-round rookie Kylie Fitts has also flashed as a pass rusher but needs more consistency.
Still, Acho says he's not the only outside linebacker holding the fort.
"I'm not the last man standing," he said. "Isaiah Irving is a beast and a baller. We've got a guy named Kasim Edebali who's been making plays -- and obviously, Kylie Fitts. So, do I feel more pressure with Leonard being down? No, not at all, because I don't base my game on what other people do.
"I try to be the best I can be and dominate when I'm on the field, no matter who else is out there. When he's back, he's going to do what he does, which is make plays. In the meantime, I'm going to do what I do, whether he's there or not."
• Bob LeGere is a senior writer at Pro Football Weekly. Follow Bob's Bears reports on Twitter @BobLeGere or @PFWeekly.