Bears hoping Sam Acho signing becomes a 'smart' move


Bears hoping Sam Acho signing becomes a 'smart' move

“Was ever woman in this humor wooed?

Was ever Woman in this humor won?

I’ll have her but I will not keep her long

What, I that killed her husband and his father

To take her in a heart’s extremist hate

With curses in her mouth, tears in her eyes,

The bleeding witness of my hatred by,

Having God, her conscience, and these bars against me,

With no friends to back my suit at all,

But the plain devil, and dissembling looks?....”


It’s difficult to see Sam Acho firing up his teammates with a little pregame Shakespeare from “Richard III.” But they can certainly use him to spread that type of intelligence and memory to his defensive teammates, many of whom have never executed a 3-4 defense.

That’s the portion of a soliloquy Acho recited on the spot to a couple reporters following this past Wednesday’s Bears OTA's at Halas Hall. The son of Nigerian-born parents (his father is a pastor and psychologist and his mother a nurse), he attended the highly-regarded St. Mark’s School in Dallas, and later met his future wife during an annual humanitarian mission with his family back to Africa. She speaks Igbo, so Sam is in the process of learning that language, in addition to the English and Spanish he already knows.

“It’s helped me on the field,” Acho said of his intelligence, recognized two years ago when The Sporting News named him one of the 20 smartest athletes in all of sports. “The ability to understand a defense, understand a play, and remember it. That’s helped me on the field, so the same work ethic I have in the classroom, I take that same work ethic and skill set to the football field.”

“He’s a smart player,” Bears head coach John Fox confirms. “He’s able to grasp things and take it from the classroom out to the field well. We’ve talked about leadership. He helps some of the younger players grasp what we’re doing, and I think he’s been an excellent addition.”

[RELATED: Shea McClellin returning to roots in new Bears' 3-4 scheme]

He can help the veterans, too, that the Bears are trying out in their new 3-4 scheme. Outside of their first (and most expensive) signing of their offseason, Pernell McPhee, they didn’t bring in any other edge rushers through free agency, or a draft seemingly rich at that position.

“It just shows they believe in the guys they’ve got. We have a deep (outside linebackers) room – guys like Pernell McPhee, Lamarr Houston, Willie Young, Jared Allen, myself, David Bass. We’ve got so many guys. It just means they believe in the guys that they’ve got.”

But Houston and Young are huge question marks, simply based on the major injuries that have so far prevented them from joining their teammates on the practice fields in Lake Forest. Enter defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who’s as respected, if not more so, than the man Acho played for in Arizona, Todd Bowles (who’s gone on to become the New York Jets’ head coach).

“Vic is the ultimate defensive coach,” says Acho. “He just loves defense, loves schemes, and he’s a great teacher. That’s what I love about him: he understands the game and how to teach it to us as players on a very basic level, where we can play at a high level.

“You just look at everywhere he’s been, and the linebackers and safeties he’s produced. It’s just fun to be a part of and see.”

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The 6-foot-3, 257-pound Acho exploded on the scene in his rookie 2011 season after being the Cardinals’ fourth-round draft pick out of Texas (where he played with his younger brother Emmanuel, now a linebacker with the Eagles). He collected seven sacks in that 3-4 scheme before slipping to four in 2012. Then three games into 2013 he broke a leg and it was a long process rounding back into form. Even though the Cards elevated their linebackers coach, James Bettcher, to replace Bowles, Arizona didn’t re-sign him. Acho was left without a suitor for the first three weeks of free agency, until Fox called.

While doubt started creeping into Acho’s mind about his future, his strong faith convinced him everything happens for a reason, and Chicago is the place he’s supposed to be.

He’ll get to face his former team at Soldier Field in Week 2. By that time, he hopes to have established himself as a leader and a force in that 3-4, building on the momentum of last season’s finish. Acho’s first sacks since that broken leg came in the regular season finale, and the Cards’ playoff loss at Carolina.

“It’s always encouraging to get some sacks on the board, but it was especially encouraging to start playing well towards the end of the season. The last game and the playoff game I had some of my best games, so that’s always encouraging to play well on a big stage.”

If Acho can pressure quarterbacks like he can recite Shakespeare, the Bears might have themselves a valuable signing.

Week 3 NFL picks: Over 90 percent of experts pick Bears to defeat Cardinals


Week 3 NFL picks: Over 90 percent of experts pick Bears to defeat Cardinals

The Bears aren’t going to take the Arizona Cardinals lightly on Sunday, but Chicago isn’t expected to have too much trouble with their Week 3 opponent.

The Cardinals have scored six points through two games, shutout last week against the Los Angeles Rams. Quarterback Sam Bradford has struggled and his offensive line has been a big reason for it, making another favorable matchup for Khalil Mack to continue his strong start.

Few experts expect the Cardinals to pull off the upset, with over 90 percent of NFL prognosticators picking the Bears to win, according to NFL Pick Watch.

Analysts from CBS and MMQB as well as the analytics from FiveThirtyEight are picking against Chicago this week, while every Pro Football Focus analyst picked the Bears across the board.

The Cardinals are nearly touchdown underdogs by Las Vegas betting lines, and sportsbooks see the game as one of the lowest-scoring matchups of the weekend.

Arizona hasn’t had much offensive success this season, but with talent like David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald, an upset is only ever a few plays away. The Cardinals defense has done well in spite of the team’s struggles, and this game won’t be a walk in the park for the Bears on the road.

(Too) Bold Predictions:

(Too) Bold Predictions:

You've stumbled into (Too) Bold Predictions, a weekly column that is exactly what it sounds like! Here, we'll take nuanced, well-researched information and use to make wildly improbable predictions. Analysis! 


J.J. Stankevitz 


1. Leonard Floyd has a breakout game.

A year ago, Floyd had a monster game against Sam Bradford, dropping the then-Minnesota Vikings quarterback twice, one of which went for a safety. Floyd does the same on Sunday, recording his first two sacks of the season in his first game not playing with a club on his right hand. A reason for that optimism: Cardinals left tackle D.J. Humphries allowed 10 pressures in 70 pass blocking snaps in Weeks 1 and 2. This should be a good matchup for Floyd, and without the club on his hand, he takes advantage of it. We'll say the "breakout" game is at least two sacks and five total pressures.


2. Mitch Trubisky will hit multiple shots downfield.

Trubisky missed Taylor Gabriel and Allen Robinson on Monday night on throws that could've backed the Seahawks' defense off the line of scrimmage. Connecting on those deep shots is critical for freeing up more room for Jordan Howard, especially against a Cardinals defense that's had success stopping the run (3.6 yards/carry, sixth in the NFL). But the Cardinals' defense has been gouged through the air, allowing 9.8 yards per attempt (31st). Trubisky will complete two deep throws in the Bears' first two drives, which will lead to a much easier path for offensive success on Sunday.


Cam Ellis


1. Tarik Cohen will take one to the house.

 Cohen hasn't contributed too heavily to the offense yet, though you could make that argument for just about anyone not named Allen Robinson. That's less the case on special teams: after averaging 9.38 yards per return last season, Cohen's  jumped up to 17.17 this year (though it's still a bit early to be taking averages seriously). It's part of why the Bears have the 5th-best special teams according to Football Outsiders' S.T. DVOA. In honor of Devin Hester and the Bears' 2006 comeback in Arizona, my bet is that Cohen, who landed on the NFL All-Pro team last year for punt returns, breaks the game open with a  touchdown of 50+ yards. 


2. Kevin White will tie his career high in catches 

After playing 12 snaps in Week 1 (12%), White only played two snaps (3%) against the Seahawks in Week 2. Arizona has the 30th-ranked pass defense, per Football Outsiders, so there's going to be plenty of eating to go around. With all eyes on Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, Kevin White -- should he play -- is going to get a lot of one-on-one matchups. White snagged six catches in games against Dallas and Detroit in 2016, and he'll resurface for at least one game against one of the league's worst pass defenses.