Akiem Hicks

Khalil Mack, Bears' defense aiming higher as 2018 'definitely wasn't good enough'

Khalil Mack, Bears' defense aiming higher as 2018 'definitely wasn't good enough'

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — Khalil Mack rolled into Bourbonnais for the first time on Thursday having heard from teammates how much he’ll love life here for the next few weeks. 

“I don’t know if it’s sarcastic or not,” Mack smiled, “but I’m looking forward to it.”

Mack, of course, missed all of training camp and preseason a year ago as a holdout while still with the Oakland Raiders. His first practice prior to the 2018 season came on Labor Day, less than a week before his game-wrecking debut against the Green Bay Packers. 

Mack went on to total 12 1/2 sacks and force six fumbles over 14 games with the Bears, making a gargantuan impact on the league’s best defense. The Bears believe Mack can be even more impactful this year with the benefit of training camp practices during which coaches can line him up in different spots and see what works. 

That’s a tantalizing possibility for someone who’s already one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. But no matter where Mack winds up, he’ll have the same motivation to be better than 2018. 

“We're hungrier than we were last year,” Mack said. “I’m speaking for myself as well. I'm way hungrier than I was last year. It definitely wasn't good enough. Just looking forward to this year and getting better.”

All-Pro Thoughts

Mack isn’t the only 2018 Bears defensive standout getting his first taste of Bourbonnais this summer. Roquan Smith arrived at Olivet Nazarene University on Thursday a year removed from holding out of all of training camp, after which he went on to rack up a team-high 121 tackles and five sacks. 

For all the chatter outside Halas Hall of the Bears’ defense taking a step back without Vic Fangio around, the growth expected from Smith in Year 2 could be a counter to those regression-based thoughts. And Mack offered a lofty expectation for Smith and fellow inside linebacker Danny Trevathan on Thursday. 

“Ultimately, I feel like he can be an All-Pro player along with Danny on the inside,” Mack, a three-time All-Pro, said. “I feel like those two should take over the All-Pro position for these year. You can say that's a large task for those guys, but I don't think it will be.”

Kicked Out

Perhaps the most prescient point of the day was made by Hicks, who showed up wearing a Shaquille O’Neal Los Angeles Lakers jersey (other jerseys spotted: Tarik Cohen wearing a Walter Payton Bears jersey to honor the late running back’s birthday, and Allen Robinson sporting a Washington Nationals jersey with “OBAMA 44” on the back). 

“There’s no question that I felt like with the team we had last year that we should have been in a better place,” Hicks said. “I’ve said this several times in the offseason, we were too good of a team to lose the way that we did. 

“Our mission now is to do away with that, to do away with the possibility that we would have to be in a game where we going into the last few seconds having to rely on anything but what we had put together throughout the course of the game.”

Indeed, the Bears’ defense allowed the Philadelphia Eagles to score a go-ahead touchdown in the dying embers of January’s wild card game. That certainly doesn’t excuse Cody Parkey’s double-doink, but for the returning members of that defense — which is, essentially, everyone but Adrian Amos and Bryce Callahan — avoiding a similar situation sure sounds like an excellent motivator for 2019. 

“I would definitely say there is a sense of urgency,” Hicks said. “You can’t get outside the box and start pushing yourself in different ways that aren’t effective, but you have to know that these opportunities to have good teams, teams that are playoff caliber teams, they don’t come around often. 

“This is my eighth NFL season and I’ve been the playoffs three times. That’s more than a lot of guys but that’s still not a lot. … You have to take advantage when you got it.”

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Akiem Hicks not happy with Madden 20 ratings: ‘Tell them to come see me’

Akiem Hicks not happy with Madden 20 ratings: ‘Tell them to come see me’

EA Sports released the full Madden 20 player ratings for every team in the NFL, and not everyone was happy with the numbers they received.

The Bears shared a video of backup quarterback Chase Daniel revealing ratings to his teammates, and defensive lineman Akiem Hicks seemed the most upset of the group.

“Bring some of the scouts out here doing the madden ratings,” Hicks said. “Tell them to come see me.”

Hicks received an overall rating of 87, tied for fourth-highest on the team and 10th-highest among defensive ends.

He has the same rating as Green Bay Packers DE Mike Daniels and Detroit Lions DE Trey Flowers.

In the video, running back Tarik Cohen was disappointed with his 92 speed, which is tied for third-fastest on the team behind wide receivers Taylor Gabriel and Emanuel Hall.

Cohen does lead the Bears with 97 agility and 92 elusiveness, but he thought his throwing power stat should be higher than 51 after his two career passing touchdowns.

And now, a very scientific debate into just how fair all the Bears' Madden Ratings actually are

And now, a very scientific debate into just how fair all the Bears' Madden Ratings actually are

It’s Madden Rankings Day, which can be a blessing I guess but certainly feels like mostly just a curse. You can see where each and every Bears player landed right here, or just take a look at this here tweet: 

Now let’s quickly break this down into tiers, going from Fair to Debatable to Honestly What Gives Madden: 

FAIR 

Khalil Mack (99) - Extremely fair! 

Eddie Jackson (91) - Inarguably fair! 

Eddie Goldman (85) - Most likely fair! He does not get much love because Akiem Hicks happens to be like, one of the most underrated defensive tackles in football, but Eddie Goldman is a starting caliber player. We’ll allow it! 

Leonard Floyd (77) - Probably fair! Floyd grades out in the mid-to-high 80’s when it comes to Speed, Acceleration, and Agility, and sags behind a bit when it comes to Awareness and Strength; that’s sort of always been the book on him. If he finishes the season at a 77, though, it probably didn’t go well. But for now, this feels fair.

Eddy Pinerio (66) - Fair for no reason other than the Bears’ kicking battle probably deserves a D. Sorry, Eddy. 

DEBATABLE 

Mitch Trubisky (75) - I get it - being told the starting QB of the team you root for may not be all that good is personally insulting on the highest level. It’s rude, and honestly how dare they. Did they even watch certain halves of Bears games?! Like Floyd, if Trubisky finishes the season at his current rating, Year 2 went sideways. 75 *does* seem to shortchange him a bit, but there’s also a pretty good argument to be made that this is right on. One might call it debatable! 

Roquan Smith (81) - He lead the team in tackles! And started in 14 games this season as a rookie! It’s the Awareness score (77) that’s keeping him in the low 80’s, which doesn’t seem accurate. 

Anthony Miller (75) - I get that he was hurt, but 75?! His Awareness (75) and Strength (68!) drag down what are otherwise high 80’s, low 90’s across the board. This blog boy’s personal opinion is that Anthony Miller is extremely for real and could easily end up as Madden’s highest-rated Bears WR when the season’s done. 

HONESTLY WHAT GIVES MADDEN 

Akiem Hicks (87) - Honestly what gives Madden? On the surface, 87 is not a bad score, and I have 18 years worth of report cards that would be happy to back that up. But Akiem Hicks is a 90+ player. Speed and Agility scores in the 60’s brings down his average, neither of which seemed to play a huge role in limiting his Pro Bowl level production. 87 for Hicks might be the most scoff-worthy score of them all. 

Cody Whitehair/James Daniels (81/77) - They’re viewed as the future of the Bears’ line, but realistically are way more the present. They’re also listed at the wrong positions, which, eye roll. I know that these aren’t entirely updated to reflect the present but come on guys, this switch was common knowledge back in March. Honestly Madden what gives?

Dax Raymond and Chase Daniel having the SAME rating (63) - Nothing against Dax, who will hopefully be terrific. But, mannnnn, that is disrespectful. An undrafted rookie getting the same ranking as a 9-year veteran who is, by most measures, considered one of the better backup QBs in the NFL. He’s certainly paid like it. 63! Put some respect on his name, Madden. What gives.