There were a lot of reasons behind the Bears big jump in improvement last season. The biggest was probably the addition of Khalil Mack. This year he might make an even greater impact.
Mack was everything the Bears thought he’d be when they traded two first round draft picks for him last September. He was an impact player. His 12.5 sacks led the team. He forced six fumbles. He recovered two more fumbles, and he had an interception. Those numbers would have been better had he not injured an ankle and sat out a couple games. But Mack’s impact couldn’t be measured only in tackles and stats. He injected confidence into the entire team.
“It’s amazing when you think about it how much he affected everybody and multiplied all of us,” said Bears coach Matt Nagy after a Bears OTA practice this week. “Not just the defense, but coaches, offense, everybody.”
Mack joined the Bears only a week before last season’s opener. Now he has the benefit of going through an entire spring and summer of working with the team.
“This is ideal,” said Mack. “This is what you want…an offseason, a full offseason of understanding the defense. Before two weeks or one and a half weeks before the first game of the year is not really prepared in my opinion, but I tried to do my best last year.”
The fact that Mack has shown up for all the Bears’ voluntary workouts so far this spring speaks a lot too about his leadership and the impact he can make on his teammates.
“He shows some of these younger kids that want to be leaders there’s different ways of doing it,” said Nagy. “It’s by showing up every day. It’s by working hard. It’s by making plays.”
One of the reasons why Mack feels it’s important to be at these voluntary workouts is so he can develop a relationship with new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano.
“He’s a very personable man,” said Mack. “He’s very real. You look at his resume he’s worked with some of the greatest of all-time. Just learning from him and understanding football through his eyes is very beneficial to me so far.”
When asked if he has a higher level that he can play at than last season Mack answered that that’s the goal.
“The expectation is to be a lot better than last year for sure.”