ProFootballFocus – Bears Pro Bowl Players

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports /
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s unlikely that the Chicago Bears have any players selected to the NFL Pro Bowl this season due to their pathetic 3-10 record, but that doesn’t mean no players deserve the honor. There have been a small group of Bears that have played very well this year despite the ten losses and overall disappointing season.

ProFootball Focus posted an article on the players they think deserve a Pro Bowl nomination and surprisingly there were a couple of Bears listed. I’ll break down their selections below with my take on their Pro Bowl merits.

Personally, I would have added one more name to the list of defensive linemen Akiem Hicks, but he’s facing pretty stiff competition in players like Aaron Donald, Cameron Jordan, and Calais Campbell. Hicks just isn’t a household name yet, but will be soon if he keeps playing like he has the last few weeks.

PFF’s Pro Bowl picks for the Bears in 2016:

RB Jordan Howard – Ezekial Elliott gets the majority of attention when it comes to rookie running backs, and he deserves it with a league leading 1,392 yards, 4.9 yards per carry, and 12 touchdowns. He’s been a beast for the Cowboys, but is also playing behind the league’s best offensive line and for a team with the 5th best offense in the NFL.

Howard, on the other hand, lacks the impressive counting stats of Elliott with less than 1,000 yards rushing (969) and only five touchdowns. In his favor though, Howard is averaging more yards per carry (5.0), has started three fewer games than Elliott, has 93 fewer carries, has played behind a patchwork offensive line in multiple games, and is playing for the 17th ranked offense with a third-string quarterback under center.

Defenses have stacked the box against Howard in the eight games missed by Jay Cutler this year, yet Howard has still been one of the most effective running backs in the league. His 5.0 yards per carry is third in the NFL behind just LeShon McCoy and Mark Ingram.

Elliot is also averaging 22 carries per game, while Howard has only broken the 20 carry mark three times this season. A power back like Howard (or Elliott) gets better as the game goes on and defenses wear down, but for some reason the Bears rarely even use Howard in the 2nd half of games.

Howard has shown that he has the patience to wait for holes to open up, enough burst to get through the line when they do, and the power to break multiple tackles and carry the pile for extra yards after contact. Howard is averaging 3.1 yards after contact, which is tops among rookies (Elliot averages 2.8) and significantly better than Jeremy Langford’s 0.0 yards after contact (estimation).

Howard has proven that he should be the Bears running back of the future and hopefully the Bears coaches realize that next year and start giving Howard the 20+ carries per game he deserves. His chances of making the Pro Bowl are slim this year, but if the Bears used him properly he might have been a lock.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

G Josh Sitton – It was a surprise around the league when the Packers released 3-time Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton before the 2016 season started. The Bears moved quickly to sign the 30-year-old Sitton to a 3-year, $21.75M contract.

Sitton moved into the starting left guard spot immediately and has combined with fellow Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long and promising rookie center Cody Whitehair to give the Bears a powerful interior offensive line. He’s been invaluable in helping Whitehair’s development while stabilizing a position that was a huge question mark after the Bears surprising release of solid veteran Matt Slauson.

PFF noted that Sitton has allowed just six quarterback pressures all season, while playing an instrumental part in the Bears surprisingly effective run game. Sitton has only made 10 starts, so I’d be shocked if he makes the Pro Bowl, but his impact on the Bears offensive line has been significant.

As long as Sitton and Kyle Long are healthy next season, the Bears should have one of the best interior o-line combos in the NFL. At just 30 years old, Sitton should see another Pro Bowl or two before he’s done in the league, even if he misses it this year due to injury.