When I filled out the Bears’ first 53-man roster earlier in this month, the simple act of typing Khalil Mack’s name gave me the sort of unexpected buzz I didn’t see coming (I guess that’s why they call it unexpected). Because, sure, when the Bears first acquired Mack, we discussed how big of an impact an All-Pro, former NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year, like Mack, could bring to a defense coming off a top-10 finish in scoring and yardage. But after two games, I’m still blown away by how much he contributes.
Indeed, he’s just two games into his Bears career, but Mack has already transformed the defense around him. Let’s take a look at some of the more prominent examples from Week 2.
He Makes Everyone Around Him Better
In the example below, nose tackle Eddie Goldman is the beneficiary of the extra attention Mack receives. Goldman picks up a sack because he dominates the point of attack and drives the center into Russell Wilson’s grill. And while Goldman deserves a ton of credit for making a play, note how Seattle delegated help to slow down Mack at the top of the screen.
Watch how this play unfolds:
Safe to say the Khalil Mack acquisition is paying dividends for the Bears.
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) September 18, 2018
Mack receivers extra attention as a pass-rusher as the Seahawks sent a chipping tight end to help their right tackle. They also flared their running back into the flat as a receiver, leaving no additional backfield help for Wilson. And because Mack is coming in hot from the outside and Goldman is crashing the middle, there is nowhere for Wilson to go but down.
Here is a different view, showing how Mack leverages his way into an advantageous position that creates a playmaking opportunity for his teammate:
— DLineVids (@DLineVids) September 18, 2018
Mack Helps the Run Game, Too
Not all elite edge defenders are strong against the run. In fact, there are some high-end pass-rushers who can be exploited in the running game by smart offensive coordinators who use that aggressiveness against them. Mack isn’t one of those players.
Watch him in pursuit of the ball carrier:
— DLineVids (@DLineVids) September 19, 2018
The Seahawks run away from Mack, but he maintains leverage by staying in his lane and attacking down the line of scrimmage. Mack’s pursuit cuts down on the possibility of a big-play on a cutback run. And because Mack’s pursuit is relentless, other Bears defenders can stay true to their responsibilities in flowing toward the ball carrier. In the end, it’s Mack making the play because of an excellent example of what good back-side pursuit looks like.
Defenses Must Account for Mack in Coverage Too? You bet
Is there anything Mack can’t do on defense? Here, he drops into coverage and still finds his way to the football:
Even when Fangio drops Mack into coverage You still have to deal with Hicks Mauling your Guard 😳 pic.twitter.com/EiIr2TCfn8
— Olin kreutz (@olin_kreutz) September 20, 2018
The ability to rush the passer, pressure ball carriers, and drop into coverage at a high level and with ease is what makes Mack stand out above the rest.