Return of the Mack: Mack and the Bears Bear Down on NFC North

Jacob Steinberg, IV Leader Sports Co-Editor

Sept. 1, 2018, could potentially be remembered as one of the biggest days that altered the course of the Chicago Bears franchise.

When Jon Gruden, head coach of the Oakland Raiders, shipped Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears for two first-round picks in 2019 and 2020, a third-round pick in 2020, and a sixth-round pick in 2019, the expectations for the team changed dramatically.

The acquisition of Mack was a statement that the Bears are ready to win now. A top three defensive player in the NFL, Mack does not just change the expectations of the Bears, but he changes the defensive dynamic.

Mack was built to play the outside linebacker position in the 3-4 defense. At six-foot-three and 252 pounds, he is a similar build to Lawrence Taylor, who is probably the greatest defensive player of all time. One could argue that Mack is a modern-day Lawrence Taylor. His relentless pursuit makes him a match-up nightmare for offensive tackles. In order to beat him, you must double team him, triple-team him, or chip block him with an in-line tight end. If you do not do either of those three options, it is likely he will sack your quarterback, or strip sack him.

Mack’s feared prescience on the gridiron makes the Bears defense a Super Bowl caliber defense. They were a top 10 unit without him last season. Through four games in 2018, the Bears defense has become a top five defensive unit. Compared to 20 points per game last year, the Bears defense is only giving up 16.3 points per game this year, while leading the NFL with 18 sacks so far. Also, the Bears have already tied their interception totals from 2015 through 2017. With eight interceptions in only four games, the Bears defense has finally broken through and is creating turnovers once again.

We should also know that Mack creates double teams and triple teams on the outside. That allows three technique defensive end Akiem Hicks to create pressure up the middle which collapses the pocket for quarterbacks. It also creates more opportunities for Leonard Floyd to get more one-on-one matchups on the outside since teams are so focused on Mack. Though Floyd has yet to record a sack, he has played quite well considering he was playing with a club on his hand for the first two weeks of the season.

Through four games so far this season, Mack looks like a man who will win his second Defensive Player of the Year award. With five sacks, four forced fumbles, an interception return for a touchdown, and 17 tackles, Mack was recently named NFC Defensive Player of the Month for September. He is the game-changer that the Bears needed in their defense.

The Bears stand at 3-1 through four games. Without Mack, they would be 1-3, maybe even 0-4. The acquisition of Mack made the Bears defense a Super Bowl caliber defense. With developing sophomore quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and rookie head coach Matt Nagy, the offense still has a way to go until it is rounded into form; though Trubisky showed flashes of his high ceiling when he tossed six touchdowns against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Bears are coming out of the wilderness that they were in for the past four years. General manager Ryan Pace deserves credit for the rebuild he has done in his four years as the general manager. With a young quarterback on his rookie deal and an elite defense, the resurgent Monsters of the Midway are in a prime position to bring the Lombardi Trophy back to Chicago within the next few seasons.