Eduardo Monk Jr.: Akiem Hicks
Defense is a game of who can hit the quarterback more and no one has done that more than Hicks has. Up to this point, he’s racked up a team-leading seven sacks and 20 tackles while anchoring the pass rush. He already has matched his entire sack total last season and it’s only mid-season. The Bears defense is worlds above last year’s squad and Hicks is a huge reason why.
Tyler Kading: Adrian Amos
It’s somehow gone under the radar, but Adrian Amos has been an elite safety this year. It’s not often a safety gets recognition, but Amos deserves it in this case.
Once Amos got going, he’s been one of the best safeties in football. Amos has averaged 6.4 tackles per game over the 5 games he has been the Bears’ starting safety, and he doesn’t look to be wanting to relinquish that responsibility anytime soon.
Amos only has tallied one interception this season (which is fine as a safety), but that one was huge: a pick-six against the Baltimore Ravens which eventually ended up ensuring overtime, which the Bears eventually won.
Pro Football Focus grades Adrian Amos as the second best safety in football this year, partnering with Harrison Smith on their midseason all-pro team. He was the only Bear with that honor.
Jake Brend: Akiem Hicks
The leader of the Bear’s pass rush, Hicks is also Chicago’s sack leader. Hicks has seven sacks to go along with 26 total tackles. The Bears reason for being competitive in games this season has been their ability to get pressure on the quarterback and Hicks leads that charge.
DeShawn Jackson: Eddie Goldman
In an award that has a lot of competition, Goldman gets the surprise nod here. Goldman is the most important player on a talented Bears defense. As the nose tackle, Goldman sets the tone for the run defense. In fact, in an injury plagued 2016, Goldman’s value was proven in the performance of the run defense. The Bears D allowed 3.61 yards per carry with Goldman in 2016, but 4.93 per carry in the 10 games he missed. The defense has picked up where it left off and is allowing just 3.9 yards per carry with a healthy Goldman. Goldman also already has a career-high 26 tackles, tied for 6th on the team, which is impressive for a nose tackle. Additionally, Goldman has opened up things for Akiem Hicks who has dominated a lot of 1-on-1 blocking and has already tied last year’s total of 7 sacks due to Eddie commanding double teams.
Rico Gutierrez: Akiem Hicks
Hicks leads all Bears defensive lineman in tackles this year and is currently 6th in total tackles. Akiem already has 7 sacks, which is the total of his sack total from all of 2016 and is on track for a double-digit sack season. According to Chicago Bears statistics, it’s possible the Bears will have two defensive players with 10+ sacks since the 1985 Super Bowl Season.
Justin Boyd: Akiem Hicks
The Bears defense has been nothing short of amazing this year, only allowing 2 offensive touchdowns in the previous 10 quarters. With the emergence of Kyle Fuller, the chip on Adrian Amos shoulder that’s he’s playing with, and the motor of Leonard Floyd that has mixed into quite the stout defense that has made a name for themselves. But, none of those players are my defensive player of the year. Akiem Hicks, the face of that front seven, has been incredible this year. Already matching his sack total of last year in week nine, he’s a threat every play. Plays with intensity and grit, without a doubt the leader of that defense. Let’s all give Pace a pat on the back for that signing because, boy, he struck gold.