Try as you might, you can’t really poke holes in what the Bears defense was able to accomplish in the first month of the Khalil Mack era.
Leading the NFL in sacks with 18? Check.
Leading the NFL in quarterback pressures? Check.
Having the NFL’s second-best rushing defense? Check.
Possess the second-most takeaways with 11? Check.
Sit atop Football Outsiders’ DVOA defensive rankings for two straight weeks to close September? Check and check.
Naturally, when you have such stellar performance from one unit across the board, that means more than a few individual defenders are standing out. Mack is obviously one of them given the tremendous rippling impact he’s had on every other Bears player. But you could reasonably make the argument that other Bears are also some of the best players at their respective positions right now.
Pro Football Focus agrees as they released their first-quarter 2018 All-Pro team this afternoon. Mack is the headliner as he’s by far the highest-graded edge defender in the NFL. To help support him on the back-end, PFF also selected safety Eddie Jackson and nickel cornerback Bryce Callahan as starters at their respective positions. Jackson and Callahan have been enjoying career years early on.
Not to be outdone, Akiem Hicks was also an honorable mention as an interior defensive linemen behind the Rams’ Aaron Donald. Any time you’re just behind a generational talent like Donald, you’re doing something right. Hicks has become one of football’s most vaunted defenders in his time in Chicago, and it seems he’s been able to play on another high level altogether thanks to the addition of Mack.
Prince Amukamara was also an honorable mention at cornerback only behind the Cardinals’ Patrick Peterson. The veteran cornerback picked off his first pass in over three years in the Bears’ win over the Seahawks in Week 2 and when healthy, has been dynamite in press coverage.
Provided the Bears defense can continue it’s torrid pace of play, there’s no reason not to believe that this unit doesn’t have tangible individual hardware roll in by the end of the 2018 season.
Robert is the Editor-in-chief of The Blitz Network (subscribe here!), the managing editor of Windy City Gridiron, and writes for a host of other fine publications. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.