Hope springs eternal during the Chicago Bears’ first minicamp under the watchful eye of Matt Nagy, but the optimism isn’t limited to the team’s first-year head coach: Count defensive end Akiem Hicks as part of the parade.
Hicks has been a Pro Bowl snub in each of the last two seasons, but has quite the prediction for one of his talented teammates:
Quote from Akiem Hicks on Leonard Floyd for the upcoming season: "One of my personal favorites for the Pro Bowl this year is Floyd," Hicks said. "It’s his time. It’s his time to bounce back and take over and be the type of rusher that I know he can be. I’m excited for him.”#Bears
— Zack Pearson (@Zack_Pearson) April 17, 2018
Floyd’s arrow was pointing up when his season ultimately ended with a knee injury in Week 11. After struggling to find his footing in the first three games of the season, Floyd started a six-game stretch in Week 4 against the Green Bay Packers where he picked up 5.5 sacks, seven tackles-for-loss, eight quarterback hits, and a safety.
Unfortunately, injuries have limited Floyd from reaching his full potential during the first two years of his career. If the Bears are going to have a repeat performance as a top-10 defense, Floyd will need to start stronger and complete the season healthy. Still, it’s encouraging that Floyd has been productive in limited action despite the slow starts.
And if Floyd can do that, the Bears could reach the heights Hicks believes the team can attain in 2018. With a healthy Floyd as part of a group of 10 returning starters from 2017 working in another year in Vic Fangio’s scheme, Hicks has set a high bar for this defense to clear.
“I would say I think our defense has a good foundation and just keep building,” Hicks said while meeting with the media on Tuesday, adding he is looking for the defense to jump into the top-5 in 2018. “Guys like myself going into our third year in the defense. Me, Danny (Trevathan), other guys on the defense, Floyd … guys that you’ve seen. Now I think we’re going to be just a little bit better.”
Hicks has good reason to be geeked about the Bears defense moving forward. It was only a few years ago when the Mel Tucker-led unit finished 30th in yards and 31st in points. Three years later, the Fangio-coached unit ranked in the top-10 in both categories.
And to think, more help could be on the way via the draft. Even still, one of the best players on the team seems to believe the pieces are in place for another strong season.