The Chicago Bears hadn’t had an All-Pro player in six years.
And then the 2018 season.
Edge rusher Khalil Mack, cornerback Kyle Fuller, safety Eddie Jackson, and punt returner Tarik Cohen were named to the Associated Press’ All-Pro team on Friday. That makes four – count ’em – FOUR! All-Pro members for the Bears, including three on the NFL’s top defensive unit. It’s been a long time coming for the Bears, who hadn’t featured an All-Pro performer since 2012. This foursome of playmakers helped elevate the Bears to a 12-win season, an NFC North title, and a playoff game at Soldier Field after four consecutive fourth-place finishes.
The road to the All-Pro team was different for each of these Bears standouts.
Fuller was a first-round pick by Phil Emery in 2014, benched in 2015 while dealing with a sophomore slump, missed the entire 2016 season with an injury, and was on the cusp of being on the roster bubble during training camp in 2017 before his breakout season. After re-signing with the Bears in the offseason, Fuller followed up a breakthrough performance with an even better year after committing to a big-money, long-term deal. Fuller, who finished tied for the league lead with seven interceptions, is the Bears’ first Pro Bowl cornerback since Charles “Peanut” Tillman in 2012.
Jackson and Cohen were fourth-round selections in the 2017 NFL Draft who were chosen just a few picks apart. But that’s where the similarities in their roads stop. Cohen starred at North Carolina A&T of the FCS and flew under the radar during the pre-draft process. Jackson played his college ball at Alabama, where he was a standout defender who garnered first-round buzz with his play until injuries sidelined him. Both were given important roles as rookies and have taken major strides in development as Year 2 players.
Cohen led the NFL in punt return yards and finished fourth in yards per return en route to becoming the first Bears’ All-Pro return specialist since Devin Hester in 2010. As for Jackson, who came away with six interceptions and scored three defensive touchdowns, is the first Bears safety to be an All-Pro since Mike Brown in 2001. I love seeing new names enter the Bears’ record books!
And then there is Mack, who has been a dominant force in the league for a while, but his time with the Raiders was coming to an end and the Bears were there to provide the soft landing. In addition to Mack’s 12.5 sacks, 18 quarterback hits, 10 tackles-for-loss, six forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and a pick-six, his presence rushing off the edge has elevated the play of everyone around him and provided opportunities that wouldn’t have otherwise been available.
Getting four All-Pros says a lot about the turnaround regular season the Bears just completed. Soon, they will turn their eyes to a bigger prize. That they will be led by four players deemed to be the best at their position should make Bears fans a bit more excited about what’s on the horizon.