We are (hopefully) getting close to the NFL season starting and now is a good time to identify the faces of franchises, including the Chicago Bears. These are players that are synonymous with their organizations and, more directly, the success of their team. There are both young and older players on the list, but the current makeup of the Bears roster has left a noticeable difference from other teams. These are current players and the list won’t include coaches or executives.
Faces of the Chicago Bears
The Bears are a franchise known for having formidable defenses. So it makes sense that the face of the franchise would be one of the most dominant defensive players in the game today. Khalil Mack found his way to Chicago via a blockbuster trade that saw Bears general manager Ryan Pace send a package including two first-round picks to the Oakland (now Las Vegas) Raiders.
Mack led the Bears in sacks (12.5) and pressures (47), finishing 12th and 7th in those categories, respectively, in the NFL in 2018. 2019 saw injuries take away teammate Akiem Hicks and Mack suffered for it. His sack numbers dropped to single-digits for the first time since his rookie season. He was still seventh in the NFL in pressures and second in hurries, though.
2020 should see a return from Hicks on the line, taking attention away from Mack. A freed Mack is a dangerous one. Making the situation even more tantalizing is the addition of Robert Quinn, owner of the highest Pass Rush Win Rate in the NFL last season. The Bears should once again be led by a ferocious defense and Mack should be at the forefront of the attack.
One of Pace’s better acquisitions, Allen Robinson spent his first four years catching “hospital balls” from Blake Bortles. Catching passes from Mitchell Trubisky hasn’t been much better, but Robinson has caught 153 of 248 targets for 1,901 yards and 11 touchdowns. That includes his injury-interrupted 2018 when he missed three games.
While 2019 was mostly brutal to the Bears, Robinson put up his best season since 2014, when he put up an 80/1,400/14 line in Jacksonville. His 98 receptions and 1,147 yards rank fifth and eighth all-time for the Bears in a single season. He also caught 63.6 percent of his targets, his highest outside of his one-target, one-catch 2017 season when he tore his ACL.
Robinson’s production despite the Bears quarterbacks (really all of the quarterbacks he has played with) is incredible. Drops affected him early on last year but he finished strong. Perhaps the addition of Nick Foles will help bring some consistency from the quarterback position, but that isn’t a word typically associated with him or Trubisky. We could be in for more of Robinson making a bad passer look better than they are.
Last, but certainly not least, is Akiem Hicks. The massive man-eater of Chicago’s interior defensive line came over from the New England Patriots after being one of Pace’s earlier “unearthed gems” with the New Orleans Saints. He has amassed 24 sacks, five forced fumbles, and four recoveries. He’s also disrupted seven passes and, in 2018, ran for a touchdown.
Hicks has not been immune to the uneven nature of the Bears in the last two seasons. After not missing a game over his first three seasons with the Bears, Hicks suffered a severe elbow injury in Week 5 of the 2019 season against the Raiders. His loss was felt immediately as the Raiders ran for 169 yards and three scores, the first of many atypical performances by the defense last season.
Now healthy, Hicks should return to being the interior presence we have come to know him as. His return is arguably the best thing to happen to this defense, as Mack can probably attest. But Hicks will also benefit from Quinn’s addition. The latter can take some of the pass-rushing pressure while the former returns the Bears to their run-stuffing ways up the middle.
2020 Faces of the Chicago Bears
There were a few notable names left off of this list. Defensively, Eddie Jackson and Kyle Fuller have a case to be included. But both had down seasons last year, for one reason or another. Jackson played out of position next to Ha Ha Clinton-Dix while Fuller gave up more completions than usual in his first year under defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano.
The other notable exclusion from the actual list was the quarterback position: Mitchell Trubisky or Nick Foles. That’s just it, though. How can either quarterback be the face of the franchise? There isn’t even a consensus on who should be under center Week 1. If all goes the Bears way, Trubisky will emerge as the face by the end of the season. As it stands, this list, like the actual team, favors the defense.