MONSTER’S MASH: A first time going (Pro) bowling
LAKE FOREST, Ill. — There was one guy who was not like the other when it comes to Pro Bowl selections for this season.
Khalil Mack has been there four times – having been selected three-time in Oakland before earning the honor in his first year in Chicago. But the other four Bears – Tarik Cohen, Kyle Fuller, Eddie Jackson, and Akiem Hicks – are all going to the All-Star game for the first time.
It’s a different feeling for each, carrying a certain significance whether young or old. Hicks, who got snubbed the last two years, celebrated during his Friday media availability by taking a selfie with the assembled media.
“When you come into this league, you want to earn the respect of the people who’ve done it before you, and the people that are doing it with you now – your peers” said Hicks. “When you get to that moment and you see that they see what you saw in yourself the entire time, it’s an awesome feeling.”
Hicks’ six sacks and consistent pressure from the line helped him earn that respect, and the same can be said for Fuller. Thought to be done at the end of his rookie contract in 2017, the cornerback played well last season to get a new deal and is tied for the NFL lead interceptions with seven.
“It’s just a blessing, man,” said Fuller of the past two years and his Pro Bowl selection. “It’s what God put me through, and to be where I’m at now, and I’m happy.”
Cohen earns the honor in just his second year in the league, continuing a remarkable rise from a fourth-round pick to one of the Bears’ most dangerous weapons. He was a player overlooked by many coming out of high school to find a college, so getting to the pinnacle of the NFL is quite special.
“To be one of the top of the league, at any position, is a tremendous honor, and for me to be able to receive that award, it’s great and I’m looking forward to it,” said Cohen.
NOTHING LIKE SIMPLE PLAYING TIME
When the Bears needed a big play on Sunday against the Packers, Leonard Floyd delivered not once, but twice.
After a turnover in the fourth quarter, the outside linebacker came up with a sack on Aaron Rodgers to derail the drive. In the closing moments of the game, he got another sack on Rodgers to force a field goal attempt instead of a throw to the endzone.
Floyd’s efforts, in many ways, closed out an NFC North title that was eight years in the making.
“I was glad man because I missed him a couple of plays before that and I was just hoping that I got another chance to finish him off,” said Floyd of his final sack in the 24-17 victory.
As he did that, Floyd continues to close out the 2018 regular season strong after a quiet start to the season. Dealing with a broken hand suffered in the preseason, the third-year linebacker was solid but unable to reach the quarterback as he had in his first two years.
But in the last six games he’s picked up four sacks and has been close on a few others as his ability to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks has increased. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio figured this would come over time, crediting more reps in games with his hand healed to increasing his productivity.
“I kept having to hold you guys off when you were wondering where he was the first few weeks, and I told you he would be better when he got full use of his hand – and he has,” said Fangio of Floyd. “There is no replacement for playing. There’s no replacement for practicing and then ultimately playing, and he’s been doing that, and he’s playing better and better every week.”
OF COACH AND QB
One of the great storylines of offseason workouts and training camp was the building of the relationship between quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and head coach Matt Nagy.
Their chemistry figured to be key in helping get the most of out of the second overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, while also running Nagy’s offense at maximum efficiency.
The pair has now had nearly a year to work together, and 14 regular season games to build an on-field rapport to help make the Bears’ offense go. There have been good moments and bad, the now famous ‘greatness’ speech at halftime of the Jets game, and now ultimately an NFC North title.
Trubisky pointed to the ability of the coach to be honest with him, and his willingness to take his suggestions to heart, as the reason things are off to a good start.
“It’s helped me immensely I think the relationship we have and the openness in our relationship, just to be honest with ourselves,” said Trubisky of Nagy. “Him being able to be hard on me, and me being able to take that criticism and wanting to get better from it all the time. It’s been a really good relationship, and it just continues to grow and grow.”
STAT OF THE WEEK: 227
The number of rushing yards needed by Jordan Howard to reach 1,000 for the season. He’s reached that number in each of the first two years of his career.