Akiem Hicks best hope to end Bears defense's Pro Bowl drought

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – The Chicago Bears last sent a defensive player to the Pro Bowl in the 2013 season when cornerback Tim Jennings was a late addition to the NFC roster to replace Seattle’s Richard Sherman.

Four years later the Bears don’t have a single defensive player (homegrown or acquired) that ever has been voted to the Pro Bowl.

Chicago’s best hope to end the streak is defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, who is one of 15 NFC players with at least seven sacks on the season.

“Well, he’s been out there,” Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “You know, availability is as important as any ability and he’s been available. He’s given us some good inside pass rush. He’s been a consistent player. I think he definitely deserves consideration.”

Added Fangio: “I think his growth has been a two-year process. I don’t think it had been 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. Never really fulfilled this potential. He’s coming closer to doing it here. He still has a lot of room to grow. I think the guy can still improve and be a better player than what we are seeing now.”

The Bears were so impressed by Hicks they recently signed him to a four-year extension that included $30 million in guarantees.

In addition to sacks, Hicks also leads the team in tackles for loss (14), quarterback pressures (14) and fumble recoveries (two).

“To be honest, you want the respect of your peers and you want the respect of the fans,” Hicks said. “I’m always inspired to be the best that I can be. It would be an achievement for me to get to that platform (the Pro Bowl) and say that I’ve put all these things together and turned myself into the type of player that is feared and respected.

“Making the Pro Bowl has been a goal since I was drafted in 2012.”