There are 95 days until the football season begins, but for a moment, let’s admire the work done by Akiem Hicks, the guy who wears No. 96 for the Chicago Bears:
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) June 3, 2017
The Bears signed Hicks in March 2016 in a move aimed to improve the interior of the defense and provide an upgrade to a front seven that was gashed by running backs constantly in 2015. Hicks signed a moderate two-year deal worth $10 million (with $5 million worth of fully guaranteed cash) and outperformed the contract in his first season. Formerly of the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots, Hicks set career highs in sacks (7.0) and tackles (36), while starting all 16 games for the first time since 2013.
His 83.1 grade was the second highest among Bears defensive players, with only inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman (93.1) earning a better grade. Hicks is playing in a contract year in his age 28 season, so another strong year is probably on the horizon.
- A thumb injury to standout wide receiver Cameron Meredith (which hopefully won’t keep him out too long) serves as a reminder of what the worst case scenario for the Bears’ group of wide receivers could look like in 2017. Dan Wiederer of the Chicago Tribune writes about the uncertainty that lurks regarding the team’s receivers, which was already on unstable ground with a healthy Meredith. Wiederer lists Meredith, Kevin White, and Markus Wheaton as locked in for 2017, but the rest of the group is littered with players on the bubble for one reason or another and long shots. It’s that lack of stability that is a top cause for concern for Mike Glennon in 2017, and beyond with Mitch Trubisky.
- Perhaps help could be on the way. Over at NFL.com, Nick Shook analyzes which teams would provide the best fit for Jeremy Maclin’s services … and the Chicago Bears are one of those teams. Shook believes Maclin would provide a strong veteran presence and the kind of dependable receiver the Bears don’t currently have on their roster. Between Meredith’s injury, White’s status as an unknown quantity, and the aforementioned uncertainty revolving around the position, Maclin could conceivably be the Bears’ best receiver the moment he stepped into Halas Hall. After back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2014 and 2015, Maclin took a step back in 2016 and was released Friday by the Kansas City Chiefs.
- A reliable receiver would be a nice addition to an offense that could best be described as stagnant, but maybe more carries near the goal line for Jordan Howard could provide a boost. Michael Fabiano provides a fantasy football slant on carries when a team is deep inside scoring range, noting that the Bears’ lead back had 10 carries inside the 5-yard-line. Howard was tied with five others with the 17th most carries in this category, but could be lined up for more in 2017 with how Jeremy Langford has slid down the depth chart. If Howard is given the seven carries Langford had inside-the-5, he would rank in the top-6 in this particular category – and could lead to more touchdowns for his fantasy owners, and of course, the Bears.
- And if you’re curious about what kind of impact Meredith’s thumb injury will have to his fantasy football value, there isn’t much to worry about. Jeff Ratcliffe of Pro Football Focus still sees WR4 value from the Bears’ top pass-catching option.
- Ten years provides ample time to grade a team’s NFL Draft class. With that in mind, Parker Hurley of Fansided’s Bear Goggles On looks back on the Bears’ 2007 draft. All things considered, it’s a draft that was a dud for one reason or another. Whether it’s picking Greg Olsen, only to watch him flourish elsewhere, or the handful of picks to follow who provided minimal impact to a team that was just coming off of a Super Bowl appearance.