Akiem Hicks put together an excellent defensive performance on Sunday, but you probably haven’t heard much about it thanks to the struggles at every other spot on the defensive side of the ball in the Bears’ 31-28 loss to the Dolphins.
Hicks made Pro Football Focus’ Team of the Week for his performance as a one-man, run-stopping wrecking crew against the otherwise unstoppable Dolphins rushing attack in Week 6. The defensive end earned a 92.2 grade from PFF on the strength of seven tackles that resulted in a defensive stop, which were the most for any defensive interior lineman last week. Hicks also picked up a hit and a hurry as a pass-rusher to round out his efforts on Sunday.
That’s an impressive showing, but it’s also saddening because it shows how effective the Dolphins were when they weren’t running in Hicks’ direction. This should have been a shot for any number of other defenders to step up and clean up whatever Hicks wasn’t getting to, but those chances (much like Frank Gore for most of the afternoon) slipped through their fingers. That’s … fitting.
It’s also fitting that Hicks’ performance is getting overlooked. PFF’s Ben Cooper writes about Hicks being one of the league’s best defenders no one is talking about. It’s generally not easy for a 6-foot-5-inch, 332-pound mountain of a man to get lost in the shuffle, but I suppose it’s feasible when there is a bigger focus on the pass-rushing contributions of Khalil Mack, the promise and upside of first-round pick Roquan Smith, and the happenings with big-money corners in Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara. But Cooper makes sure Hicks gets some love and that his great play doesn’t slip through the cracks.
When it comes to stopping the run, Hicks is the best in the business. His 93.7 run-defense grade is the best in the league among the players at his position, yes, better than Aaron Donald’s 90.3 grade. Hicks also leads the league with a 19.7% run-stop percentage, which is a fraction better than J.J. Watt (19.0%). And Hicks is no slouch when it comes to pressuring the quarterback, posting a 79.9 pass-rush grade that ranks seventh among interior defenders.
Hicks has excelled in so many facets of the game since joining the Bears and you can argue he has been even better since signing his multi-year extension before the start of the 2017 season. While Hicks’ Week 6 performance is just the latest show of excellence for one of the Bears’ best defensive players, I don’t think his stellar play is going to fly under the radar much longer.