The Chicago Bears’ first training camp practice open to the public arrives on July 27, and we’ll be there! But with training camp rapidly approaching and the team’s August 8 debut at home against the Panthers around the corner, let’s take an early look at who’s on the team right now.
Today: Edge defenders
The Starters: Khalil Mack (12.5 sacks, 47 tackles, 18 quarterback hits, 10 tackles-for-loss, 6 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 pick-six; 90.7 PFF grade), Leonard Floyd (4.0 sacks, 47 tackles, 11 quarterback hits, 9 tackles-for-loss, 1 fumble recovery, 1 pick-six; 69.6 PFF grade)
The Backups: Aaron Lynch, Isaiah Irving, Kylie Fitts, Chuck Harris, Matt Betts
Potential Training Camp Star: The word “potential” isn’t needed here. Khalil Mack isn’t just the training camp star of his position group, but he is the star of stars on the Bears. Full stop. Training camp always has a player who makes his way into becoming a fan favorite, but when was the last time the Bears had a superstar who commanded your full attention at camp? If we ask that question next year, there will no need to think back to who it might be — it’s Mack.
We Really Like: The idea of moving Mack and Leonard Floyd around the defensive formation. Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio kept it simple after the Bears traded for Mack at the end of the preseason, leaving Mack lined up over the right tackle and moving Floyd to line up on the other side of the ball. But I thought the Bears defense was at its best when Floyd and Mack were moved around because it gave opposing offenses fits. Accounting for Mack (and Floyd) is a challenge on its own, but having to do so while not knowing where they could line up on any given play seems like a nightmare for offensive coaches. And I’m all for making things that much more difficult for opposing offenses.
We Might Be Worried About: This isn’t a camp-related issue, but there is no quieting the voices who share concerns about Floyd getting off to another slow start. Floyd hasn’t found his footing early in any of his first few seasons, which is one reason he has yet to have a breakout campaign to this point in his career. Floyd doesn’t have to be a world beater out of the gates, but if he can be a game-changer if he plays to his potential early in the season.
2019 Forecast: Mack is a virtual lock for 10+ sacks, a bunch of quarterback hits and hurries, a handful of forced fumbles and recoveries, and countless moments that will leave us going “ooh” and “aah” for 16 games (and hopefully, the postseason). But for the Bears to be successful, they’ll need Floyd to be a force when lined up across from Mack, as well as contributions from role players like Isaiah Irving and Aaron Lynch. Getting to the quarterback is a team effort, one this group will need to be successful in if it wants to reach new heights in 2019.