By Ryan Bukowiecki (@ryanbski)
The NFL’s Pro Bowl voting system is a composition of tallies from the fans of the league, its coaches and its players.
It can be a confusing system but it is meant to get representation from as many people who truly follow the sport as possible. That said, it is clear by the Pro Bowl voting results in 2018 that the Chicago Bears have been impressive on a league-wide level.
The 10-4 Bears, fresh off their ultra-satisfying, division-clinching win over Green Bay Sunday, found out five of their starters were selected to the upcoming Pro Bowl, which will take place on Jan. 27th, the weekend before the Super Bowl, in Orlando, Florida.
The five selected were, cornerback Kyle Fuller, safety Eddie Jackson, defensive end Akiem Hicks, outside linebacker Khalil Mack and all-purpose back Tarik Cohen, who is being positioned in the game as a return specialist.
The Pro Bowl game is honestly not the most interesting event of the season to most NFL fans; for Bears fans the game was a complete non-factor over the past three seasons, a span where no Chicago players were selected outright (two alternates were selected in 2018).
But the honor of being selected to the Pro Bowl is a very notable recognition for an NFL player and to get selections in bulk, as the Bears have here, is a true sign of respect and acknowledgment of a successful season an entire team can take pride in.
And as if the five selected outright to the game wasn’t enough, the Bears are also being represented heavily among game alternates, seven in total which include outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, inside linebackers Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan, left tackle Charles Leno Jr., center Cody Whitehair, tight end Trey Burton and — believe it or not — quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
Pro Bowl alternates can be elevated to the main squad if there are injuries, or if a player’s team makes it to the Super Bowl.
Safe to say, with the Bears now making plans for home games in January, a lack of actual action from the New Monsters in Orlando because of plans for the following week will be both understood and accepted.
- Eddie Jackson (FS) – 6 interceptions
- Kyle Fuller (CB) – 7 interceptions
- Akiem Hicks (DE) – 6 sacks
- Khalil Mack (OLB) – 12.5 sacks
- Tarik Cohen (R) – 413 punt return yards
Mostly coming from the defense, the Bears Pro Bowl starters are extending the narrative that Chicago has the best defense in the league. The best defense should send multiple players to the Pro Bowl and the impact of these four defenders can’t be appreciated enough.
Mack and Hicks power a front seven that is the foundation of the defense and the scourge of offensive coordinators every week. Between the two they have 18.5 sacks, along with 20 tackles for loss, and this is with teams game planning against them, which you figure because of the repeated double-teams each man sees.
Mack came to the Bears established as a top five defensive player in the NFL and a perennial Pro Bowler, but even missing his first two games as a pro this season didn’t stop him from being selected to his fourth all-star game.
Many felt Hicks was deserving to get the Pro Bowl last year but he was overlooked because of how bad the Bears were, but with a division-winner being helped by his work in 2018 he finally broke through with his first selection.
Jackson and Fuller are also first-timers, both have been ball hawks who’ve made a ton of plays to distinguish the Chicago secondary. With a combined 13 interceptions between them, Jackson and Fuller have more interceptions than 21 entire teams in the league. Cohen is also a first timer and though he excites mostly on plays from scrimmage, he leads the league with his 413 punt return yards.
These players are no doubt deserving of their selections and it is great to see the fans, coaches and their teammates recognize the seasons they have had. Anyone who’s gone through the hard times with the Bears has to relish these announcements.
- Leonard Floyd (OLB) – 4 sacks
- Roquan Smith (ILB) – 108 tackles
- Danny Trevathan (ILB) – 92 tackles
- Trey Burton (TE) – 6 touchdowns
- Mitch Trubisky (QB) – 94.1 QB rating
- Charles Leno Jr. (LT)
- Cody Whitehair (C)
Having a lengthy list of alternates for the Pro Bowl is another great recognition in itself. Probably the most notable of the alternates is Trubisky seeing as the Bears have had a horrible time having quarterbacks go to the game. The last Bears quarterback to make it to a Pro Bowl was Jim McMahon in 1986.
Smith’s 108 tackles is the second most by a Bears rookie, that record being set by Brian Urlacher with 125 in 2000. Partner-in-crime Trevathan has put together a very nice season as the two have combined for 200 tackles. With Mack already selected, if the all the alternates make it then the entire starting linebacking core would be at the game.
Floyd is the the less-talked about linebacker but his play has rebounded from a slow start to the season. Burton has been a versatile player and a reliable red zone target while lastly Leno and Whitehair have put together the two best seasons on an offensive line deserving recognition.
The Pro Bowl is the start of recognition season and the Bears have gotten off to a great start, but they are looking for more.
Pro Bowls are awesome, but you have to figure rolling deep in Orlando wasn’t part of the team’s overall plans, especially now that they are assured a playoff spot, for those who clinch playoff spots now have an eye on representing in the state just above Florida, where the very last game of the season is being played in Atlanta.
Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears for WARR