Bears make Khalil Mack, Allen Robinson inactive for second consecutive week

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Bears make Khalil Mack, Allen Robinson inactive for second consecutive week

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Bears will not play outside linebacker Khalil Mack (ankle) and wide receiver Allen Robinson (groin) for the second consecutive week, giving two of the team’s most important players another game off to nurse their respective injuries with an eye on a critical three-game stretch against the NFC North looming this month. 

Both players were announced as inactive prior to Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills, along with injured defensive lineman Bilal Nichols (knee) and tight end Ben Braunecker (concussion). The Bears’ other inactives: Wide receiver Kevin White, cornerback Marcus Cooper and offensive lineman Rashaad Coward. White, for the first time in his career, was a healthy scratch. 

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio admitted last week the Bears could’ve benefitted from letting Mack rest sooner than he did, though a significant factor in making him inactive against the New York Jets and now Bills was seeing him give it a shot against the New England Patriots. 

“To his credit, he tried to play with it,” Fangio said. “Some people would say we were wrong to play him after he got hurt early in Miami in that game, and then wrong to play him the next game. But there’s another lens to look at that. A lot of people think players don’t play through injuries, etc., and this guy is saying he can go. 

“… I prefer to look at it through the lens that this guy is trying to fight through and play, and he’s not letting an injury take him out. In hindsight, should we have taken him out earlier? Probably. But a guy says he can go, he can go, and we’ve got to see it.”

The Bears’ defense suffocated the Jets last week without Mack despite only recording one sack and no interceptions. The Bears were a top-10 defense without Mack in 2017, after all, a point made by a few people around Soldier Field and Halas Hall last week. 

“Our level of overall play, obviously, when you add a player of his caliber into it is going to be better but there’s still no reason for other guys to not play to the best of their abilities,” Fangio said. “I just don’t get the point everybody makes on that, admitting that we’d better off with him, I’m not saying that. But it shouldn’t affect the other 10 guys on how they play.”

The Bears’ offense, while not its best self against the Jets, was able to sustain not having Robinson in scoring 24 points. 

While the Bears likely would’ve decided to play Mack and/or Robinson if both were 100 percent healthy, they still have a talent advantage over the 2-6 Bills without both players. The point being: The Bears should be able to win without Mack and Robinson, and then hope both are at or as close as possible to 100 percent when the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings come to Soldier Field in Weeks 10 and 11.

Why Tom Waddle believes Nick Foles will be Bears' QB1, not Mitch Trubisky

Why Tom Waddle believes Nick Foles will be Bears' QB1, not Mitch Trubisky

The central issue surrounding the Bears heading into the upcoming season concerns the starting quarterback situation, and that previous statement could apply to many more seasons than just 2020. Longtime ESPN 1000 host Tom Waddle is no stranger to QB drama, as the former Bears receiver has been a leading voice in analyzing the team for over a decade on the station’s highly-successful “Waddle & Silvy” show. When the Bears made their move to trade for Nick Foles in March, Waddle’s immediate reaction was a strong one, as he recounted to Laurence Holmes on the Under Center podcast.

“You don’t trade a fourth-round pick and give up $20 million guaranteed to a quarterback and sit him behind a QB that you don’t have full faith in,” Waddle explained. “I immediately thought this is going to be their starting quarterback. I think the familiarity that Nick Foles has with John DeFilippo and Bill Lazor and Juan Castillo and obviously Matt Nagy, I think you put that all together and you couple the familiarity with the uncertainty that is in the mind of the head coach about what the existing quarterback is capable of doing, and to me, it all added up to they got a guy that they trust and a guy that they see as their starter from Day 1.”

That doesn’t mean Foles will be an automatic savior. Of course, he led the Eagles to a Super Bowl title with a brilliant string of play in January and February of 2018, eventually outdueling Tom Brady to win the title in a shootout. But Foles has started more than eight games in a season just twice in his eight-year pro career, the last coming in 2015 with the then-St. Louis Rams.

RELATED: 2020 Bears Roster Review: Breaking down the Mitch Trubisky-Nick Foles battle

However, the fact that the Bears were aggressive in identifying Foles and then trading with Jacksonville speaks volumes about how they feel about him and it’s that conviction that truly sells Waddle on Foles being the starter. “If you were just looking for somebody to compete with Mitch, you could have waited out the Bengals, who were more likely to release Andy Dalton,” hypothesized the former Boston College Eagle. “You could have signed Case Keenum, but I don’t think the Jags were releasing Nick Foles at any point because of the contractual obligation they had to him. They had to go get him and once they went and got Nick Foles, that was the surest sign of all, in my world, that Nick’s got the edge.”

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Khalil Mack didn't rank as high as you might think on PFF's top 50 players

Khalil Mack didn't rank as high as you might think on PFF's top 50 players

Chicago Bears edge rusher Khalil Mack didn't have the kind of season fans were expecting in 2019, but to be fair, Chicago's entire defense went through a bit of regression last year. Mack ended 2019 with just 8.5 sacks. It was the first season that he failed to crack double-digit sacks since his rookie year (2014).

Still, there's no denying Mack's place among the NFL's elite players, regardless of position. Barring injury, he's a surefire Hall-of-Famer and certainly one of the 10-best players in the league.

According to Pro Football Focus, that may not be the case.

In PFF's ranking of the NFL's top 50 players, Mack ranks 18th.

Pro Football Focus is counting down their top 50 on Twitter, and so far the following players have been ranked higher than Mack:

17: Bobby Wagner
16: Chris Jones
15: Fletcher Cox
14: Richard Sherman
13: J.J. Watt
12: Stephon Gilmore
11: Drew Brees

All of those names are worthy of being ranked in this range, especially following a 2019 campaign that brought Mack back to the pack. 

2020 should produce different results for Mack and the Bears after adding Robert Quinn in free agency. The healthy return of Akiem Hicks will be a huge plus, too, giving Mack some much-needed help along the Bears' front-seven.

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