It’s been a while since Khalil Mack has engaged in football activities, but the Chicago Bears have a big game on Sunday (not only because it’s the first game of the year and against a division rival, but also because of that team’s biggest strength) and their newest addition figures to be a part of it.
“We’re going to do everything we can to get him to a point where he can play,” Head Coach Matt Nagy said, via the team’s official website. “I know he’s been working out, training, and you see the guy. It’s not hard to tell he’s been doing that. But we’ve got to be smart because the last thing you want to do is just throw him out there and then all of a sudden he’s hurt and you lose him for some time. That’s what we don’t want to do.”
Mack didn’t participate in Oakland Raiders team activities, training camp, or preseason games as he remained on the outside looking in while waiting out a holdout that ultimately ended when he was traded to the Bears on Saturday. It should come as no surprise that Mack still looks like he’s in game shape. After all, football has become a year-round sport and modern NFL players find themselves preparing all year long (even on their own time).
Mack’s first practice of the year came Monday at Halas Hall, where he reportedly flashed that high-end pass-rush skill that made him a highly-sought-after player on the trade market:
Matt Nagy on Khalil Mack's first practice, which was between walkthrough & full speed: "Our right tackle, his second play, he turned around and gave me (bug) eyes when he rushed him. That's kind of good to see." #Bears
— Rich Campbell (@Rich_Campbell) September 3, 2018
It’s possible that Mack is on a “pitch count” of sorts for the season-opener against the Packers. For as talented and skilled as he is, Mack isn’t going to learn the Bears’ defensive playbook in a week. But what the team can do is set up a package of plays in pass-rushing situations that could take advantage of his speed, skills, and athleticism that could lead him to chase down quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
While there are probably just a dozen or so plays Mack could fully pick up during practice this week, the biggest thing he could end up providing is a fear factor that no other Bears defender could bring to the table. Mack is the caliber of player other teams have to create a game plan to stop because he pops up at the top of the scouting report.
Mack’s mere presence will force the Packers to be accountable for where he is and where he is going at all times. Maybe Mack doesn’t come away with a sack in his Bears debut, but he should garner double teams and extra attention that could free up other playmakers on the Bears defense. There is a potential domino effect now that Mack has arrived, and we’ll soon see how things fall in line once he steps on the field.