One of the most welcome surprises in the 2016 free-agent class, Akiem Hicks had a breakout first season with the Chicago Bears last year and led their defensive linemen with 71 tackles, seven sacks, three pass breakups and two forced fumbles while starting all 16 games.
Jerrell Freeman, the Bears’ inside linebacker, had this to say about Hicks: “He just plays with an attitude, an attitude that you want your d-linemen playing like. It’s not just him, but him being him, he;s just one of those guys that demands attention. He just thinks he’s the best thing smoking out there and he’s going to play like it, too.”
— Thomas Gibbons (@ThomasGibbons_3) July 5, 2017
The Bears also signed Jaye Howard and John Jenkins to their defensive line, strengthening their line for the second straight offseason.
After playing in two games as a rookie for Seattle in 2012, Howard appeared in 43 games with 28 starts the past fours seasons with Kansas City. During the 2014 and 2015 seasons, he made 93 tackles and 6.5 sacks, with 5.5 of those coming in 2015 when the Chiefs went 11-5 and reached the AFC playoffs.
Jenkins, at 6-3 and 359 pounds, was released by the Saints last November and signed by Seahawks. He played nine games with one start last year, registering a total of 13 tackles. Overall, he has appeared in 51 games with 22 starts over four seasons with the Saints and the Seahawks, recording 113 tackles, 1.5 sacks, two pass breakups, six tackles-for-loss, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Another key to the success of the Bears this season will be Eddie Goldman, a third-year nose tackle who unfortunately only played a small number of games due to an ankle injury. The Bears’ defensive coordinator said that “[they] missed him” and “if [they] can get him back to where he was, and a little better, [he] thinks [they’ll] have a good player there.”
From rookies to veterans such as Mitch Unrein and C. J. Wilson, the Bears have a dominant defensive line ready to take over the next season.