Akiem Hicks deserved the Pro Bowl, but missing it doesn't diminish his standout season


Back in August, Akiem Hicks revealed he had a “goal board” up in his room to remind him of all the things he hoped to accomplish in 2017. Was the Pro Bowl on there?

“Yes, it is, I’ll tell you that,” Hicks said. 

Hicks has played well enough in 2017 to check off that goal, but wasn’t among the players named to the NFC Pro Bowl roster on Tuesday night (he still could be named as an alternate/replacement later). That’s a shame for someone who not only has eight sacks and 15 tackles for a loss, but has been the Bears defensive player who opposing offenses coordinators have had to work the hardest to gameplan for this year. 

“I think (the Pro Bowl’s) important to everybody,” Hicks said after Saturday’s 20-10 loss to the Detroit Lions. “Every player in the league wants to be respected by their peers and wants to be respected by the fans that come see their product every week. And I think universally, everybody would see that as an accomplishment. And so I’m right in that bag.”

The Bears have not had a defensive player named to the Pro Bowl since cornerback Tim Jennings in 2013. 

The NFC defensive linemen who made the initial Pro Bowl roster: Minnesota's Everson Griffen (13 sacks), Dallas' Demarcus Lawrence (13 1/2 sacks), New Orleans' Cameron Jordan (10 sacks), Philadelphia's Fletcher Cox (5 1/2 sacks), Los Angeles' Aaron Donald (11 sacks) and Tampa Bay's Gerald McCoy (5 sacks). Cox and McCoy, despite their lower sack totals, are among the most disruptive interior defensive linemen in the NFL. McCoy, though, has a biceps injury and could be a candidate to not go to Orlando and be replaced by Hicks. 

Beyond his statistics, it’s been clear on tape that Hicks is playing at an elite level in 2017. Attracting that attention from opposing coaches and players is sort of like an intentional walk in baseball — that teams are designing plays to go away from him is a hefty sign of respect. 

And it’s worth noting that Hicks is doing all this after signing a four-year contract extension just before the season began. The Bears rewarded him for his strong play in 2016 (seven sacks, 11 TFLs), and in turn, Hicks is rewarding Ryan Pace the front office for their long-term investment in him. 

While it’s disappointing Hicks didn’t make the Pro Bowl in 2017, his arrow is still pointing up — and that means, eventually, he’ll make one. 

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