The Chicago Bears have a plan to unleash Khalil Mack in the team’s season-opener against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. They just don’t know for how long just yet.
NFL Network’s Stacey Dales reports the Bears have a plan for Mack after he took reps against the first-team offense during this week’s practices. Dales notes that Mack was in a rotation with Sam Acho and Nick Kwiatkoski (who also happens to be one of the team’s starting inside linebackers) playing opposite of Leonard Floyd. That could give us a look at a defense that features Mack, Floyd, Danny Trevathan, and Roquan Smith. Or a group of linebackers that could include Smith, Kwiatkoski, Trevathan, and either Mack or Floyd. Tack on the possibility of Aaron Lynch taking some snaps and the Bears have a wave of defenders they’ll be able to throw against Green Bay’s offensive line.
Options are good. Options that include Khalil Mack are better.
Mack has been a full participant in practice each of the last three days, which suggests the team’s newest pass-rusher will be ready to give it a shot against the Packers at Lambeau Field. But let’s not look past the fact that Mack has a lot of catching up to do.
It’s worth pointing out that Mack did not participate in any of the Raiders’ offseason training activities, training camp, or preseason games before he was dealt to the Bears last week. On top of that, Mack is just starting to get familiar with Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio’s scheme. Even if he opened a playbook the minute a deal between the Bears and Raiders was official, he still has some learning left to do. With that in mind, Chicago’s coaches would be wise to ease him into action by putting him in situations where he can be most successful to start his Bears career.
To that end, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio notes that NBC’s Mike Tirico reported that Nagy said Mack would play on a pitch count on Sunday. If the Bears were looking for an example of a player who has done something similar, they could turn to how the Los Angeles Rams handled the 2017 season debut of stud defensive tackle Aaron Donald. The Rams played Donald on 48 total snaps, or 67.6 percent of the team’s defensive plays in a Week 2 loss against Washington.
Even though he could ultimately be a limited participant in Week 1, the buzz around Mack’s arrival isn’t dying down because of the element he brings to the defense that wasn’t there prior to his arrival. It’s just that Mack, who played on 89.5 percent of Oakland’s defensive snaps in 2017, might not be able to give it a full-go on Sunday. But Mack being on the field and chasing down Aaron Rodgers for a percentage of snaps is better than not having Mack on the field at all.