Sam Acho

Bears' pass rush is one of NFL's worst, says PFF

Bears' pass rush is one of NFL's worst, says PFF

The Chicago Bears play in a division with Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins and Matthew Stafford, so it's pretty obvious that a key to this season will be the defense's pass rush.

Unfortunately, getting after the quarterback doesn't appear to be a strength of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio's unit. According to Pro Football Focus, the Bears have one of the worst group of pass rushers in the NFL.

Right now, expectations for what the Bears can expect off the edge pass-rush wise should be very low. Injuries have slowed Floyd’s development after he was drafted with the ninth overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, leading to just 72 total pressures through three seasons. Starting opposite him will likely be Acho, with Lynch in on nickel pass-rushing packages. Lynch has averaged four sacks, and just over six hits and 21 hurries per season in his four-year career. The Bears top pass-rusher right now is Hicks on the defensive interior, and after producing 49 total pressures in 2017, he will likely need to be their top pass-rusher again in 2018.

If Sam Acho ends up starting opposite Leonard Floyd, then Aaron Lynch will go down as a free-agent bust. He was signed to start, not to be a rotational pass rusher. In fact, it's Acho who's better equipped to rotate into the lineup and provide a burst of energy when needed. 

Sixth-round pick Kylie Fitts is another candidate to bring pressure off the edge for the Bears, but he too is a great unknown. His college resume is littered with injuries and more potential than production. Chicago is high on him, however, and he could be another day-three steal to add to Ryan Pace's draft catalog.

Ultimately, the Bears' pass rush will come down to Floyd and whether he can become the elite sack artist he was drafted to be. In fact, he's entering something of a make-or-break year. If he doesn't prove he can stay healthy enough to register 10 or more sacks this season, Chicago may have to re-think its plan at edge rusher. 

Sam Acho on latest Trump, NFL dust-up: ‘I think people need to stop, think and listen’

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USA TODAY

Sam Acho on latest Trump, NFL dust-up: ‘I think people need to stop, think and listen’

Shortly after the NFL announced its updated National Anthem policy last month, Bears linebacker Sam Acho — the team’s union representative — delivered some thoughtful and pointed remarks about the league’s edict.

The Anthem issue again roared back to the headlines after President Donald Trump on Monday dis-invited the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles from their scheduled day at the White House:

Multiple Eagles players disputed the statement’s accuracy (and B-roll Fox News used of Eagles players kneeling, but in prayer before games):

https://twitter.com/JOEL9ONE/status/1003990054505730048

And on Tuesday, Acho had this to say about an issue that seems sure to continue to be escalated by the NFL and President Trump well into this year’s regular season: “You just have to think about it,” Acho said. “Just because they make a statement doesn’t mean it’s true. I could make a statement about anything, that doesn’t mean it’s true. I could sit here and say, ‘The sky is green.’

“That’s why it doesn’t frustrate me. Nor does it surprise me because you see it time and time again. I think when you look at people’s history, you start to see themes. Someone said me once, ‘People show you who they are. It’s up to you whether you believe them or not.’”

For a league that has plenty of intriguing storylines happening on the field — including, potentially, a dynamic Bears’ offense — the issue of the National Anthem appears like it’ll dominate headlines for the coming weeks and months. That’s to say it’s not going away any time soon, or at least as long as the NFL and its players aren’t on the same page.

The reason why players — led by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick — began protesting during the National Anthem continues to get lost, as Acho sees it: Far too many people are viewing this as an issue about respecting the troops instead of a movement for social justice reform.

“I think it’s up to people to use common sense, use your intelligence and your brain to think about what the players are actually standing for, what they’re kneeling for or what they’re putting their fist up in the air for,” Acho said. “If you just stop and think, you realize that these players are (doing this) … you hear it’s to fight against injustice.

“I think people need to stop, think and listen. And not be so eager to say, ‘well, because you took a knee, you hate the military …’ I think that’s sophomoric thinking. It’s just too simple.”

The NFL’s ruling in May on the Anthem didn’t — and won’t — deter players like Acho from continuing to speak up for what they believe. Neither will tweets from the President. For Acho, these social justice efforts are all about using his fame and his high profile to make a difference.

“As a player in the NFL, people call us modern-day kings, celebrities, whatever you want to say,” Acho said. “Once you have this kind of platform, you have to use it. You can’t shy away from it. Different people use it in different ways. I am going to continue use my platform to speak up for social justice and speak up for people who can’t speak up for themselves. It would be wrong of me not to. To whom much is given much is required.”

NFL Anthem policy won’t keep Sam Acho, others from standing up for what they believe in

NFL Anthem policy won’t keep Sam Acho, others from standing up for what they believe in

By a 31-0 vote, NFL owners on Wednesday approved a policy addressing player protests of the National Anthem that became a political flashpoint last fall. The rule removes the requirement that all players be on the field for the Anthem, but any team and league personnel who are on the field “shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.”

If a player is on the field and does not “stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem,” his team will be fined by the NFL. Teams will be allowed to develop their own rules regarding their personnel who “do not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem,” as well.

The NFLPA was not consulted in creating this policy, and collectively sent a strongly-worded statement about the “policy” on Wednesday afternoon.

Sam Acho is the Bears’ union representative and spoke Wednesday about the policy change.

“Obviously, from the beginning, no one’s intent and I think that no one’s purpose was to disrespect the flag,” Acho said. “Everyone’s purpose, starting with Colin Kaepernick, Michael Thomas, Eric Reid — who still doesn’t have a job — was to protest police brutality against people of color. I think that still stands, right? You’re going to find a way to stand up for people who are being unjustly treated, find a way to stick up for justice in whatever way, shape or form you can possibly do it.”

The Bears did not have any player kneel for the National Anthem last year, and as a team decided to lock arms a day after President Donald Trump tweeted, among other things, that teams who have players who knelt should “get that son of a bitch off the field right now.” But just because the Bears didn’t have a member openly protesting during the National Anthem didn’t mean no one was working to raise awareness of injustice and police brutality against people of color, Acho said.

So that players, effectively, will not be allowed to kneel for the National Anthem anymore won’t prevent anyone from continuing their activism for causes in which they believe.

“Was I okay with the ruling? Well I don't know, I guess people make decisions and it's up to you to either stick with them or find a different way to stand up for what you believe in,” Acho said. “So to ask if I'm okay with the ruling I don't know if that's the right question to ask. I think the right question would be well what do you do now? And I think about me and I think about what guys on this team are doing. Like we're already in the community, we're already finding a way to protest police brutality against people of color.

“We're working with the police, we're working with people of color and we're doing it. I think protesting is a great avenue to do that, to bring awareness. Obviously protest has brought a ton of awareness to the abuses of power that are going on in our country and I think that was a great method to start a conversation. Now what we're seeing is we're seeing action.”

Acho added that he and some of his teammates, during a bible study Wednesday morning, focused on a passage from James 2: “Faith without works is dead,” which underscores the importance of players continuing to use their platform to stand up for what they believe in however they can.

“It's one thing to have faith and say you believe in something and it's a total different thing to actually do something about it,” Acho said. “That's why I salute Kaep, I salute Eric Reid, Michael Thomas, all these guys who have from the beginning stood up for injustice. And some of them don't have jobs right now right? Colin Kaepernick right now is not in the NFL. Eric Reid is not in the NFL, they're paying the price, right?

“But I think that their, martyrdom is a strong word but, I just use that term now, their martyrdom is actually paying huge dividends for people with no voice. They're speaking up for the voiceless and as a Chicago Bear, as an NFL player I'm going to continue to do that in any way, shape or form.

“As you all know last year we didn't have guys taking a knee. We locked arms, we stayed together, we were unified as a team. That's what we are, we're a team but just because you're not protesting the National Anthem doesn't mean somebody can keep you from standing up for those that are being treated unfairly.”

Whatever the Bears do in 2018, they’ll do as a team — Mitch Trubisky said he believes he and his teammates will all be on the field for the National Anthem — but, despite today’s policy change, that won’t keep players like Acho from continuing to further their message.

“I don't think anything really changes at this point, right?” Acho said. “Obviously, the NFLPA goes back and says, 'OK, what do we do now? As a union, what do we do? How will we respond?' But, to be honest, I think a lot of players are happy about the conversations that are happening. So the protest served their purpose.

“If guys still want to protest, obviously the ruling is if that if you don't want to stand for the anthem, according to the owners, you can stay inside. You may see a whole team stay inside like Pittsburgh did in Week 3. I'm not Nostradamus, so I don't know what happens next, but I will say we continue to do what we're doing, speak up for those who can't speak up for themselves.”