Bears

Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack appears in line to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack participated in the Bears’ final practice of the week on Friday, clearing the way for the edge rusher to play Sunday against the New England Patriots. 

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported earlier Friday that the Bears expected Mack, who hasn’t missed a game in his career, to play after suffering an ankle injury early in Week 6’s 31-28 loss to the Miami Dolphins. Mack is officially questionable for Sunday’s game at Soldier Field. 

Mack had little interest in discussing his ankle with the media on Friday, passing on answering questions about his readiness for New England. Coach Matt Nagy, though, said he thought Mack “looked pretty good” during practice on Friday. 

Mack didn’t record a sack against Miami and was held to just one pressure, per Pro Football Focus. The Dolphins’ gameplan was to commit plenty of resources to stopping Mack, but he wasn’t effective even when he had one-on-one pass rushing opportunities as the game went on. 

“He was (affected),” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “I can't put a percentage on it, but he definitely was.”

Having Mack available — even if he’s not full strength — will be critical for the Bears’ defense to have a chance at keeping Tom Brady from lighting up the scoreboard. The key for the Bears will be to generate pressure on the 41-year-old quarterback without blitzing, which is something Fangio’s defense was successful at prior to Sunday’s wacky loss to the Dolphins. 

Brady’s passer rating is 138.4 when he’s blitzed, per Pro Football Focus, while when under pressure his rating is 87.2. That’s still pretty good, but it’s worth noting that all of the six interceptions he’s thrown this year have come when he hasn’t been blitzed. And only one of the eight sacks he’s taken has come when he’s been blitzed. 

The point being: If the Bears feel like they have to start blitzing to generate pressure, they can expect Brady to pick them apart.  

“You could say all of that but ultimately (Brady’s) a gamer,” Mack said. “He’s going to take those hits, and you gotta be able to deliver them but also have coverage over the top. It’s going to be real important for us.” 

The good news for the Bears, perhaps, is that New England’s tackles have struggled at times this year. Left tackle Trent Brown has allowed 17 pressures in 234 pass blocking snaps, per Pro Football Focus (about one in every 14 snaps). And starting right tackle Marcus Cannon is out with a concussion, giving way for backup La’Adrian Waddle, who’s allowed eight pressures in 78 pass blocking snaps (about one in every 10). 

So the opportunities will be there for Mack, Leonard Floyd, Akiem Hicks and the Bears’ pass rush to affect Brady on Sunday.

A bigger injury concern?

While cornerback Prince Amukamara (hamstring) was a full participant in Friday’s practice and will play Sunday, slot corner Bryce Callahan suffered an ankle injury during Thursday’s practice and did not participate Friday. He’s officially questionable for Sunday. 

Callahan “did his ankle,” Nagy said, toward the end of Thursday’s practice, and he felt worse as the day went on. Nagy characterized Callahan’s absence from Friday’s practice as “precautionary.”

Callahan’s availability may be more of a pressing concern than Mack’s, given how well the Patriots’ offense has played since slot receiver Julian Edelman returned from a four-game suspension to begin the season. While his numbers aren’t eye-popping (11 catches on 16 targets, 111 yards, 1 TD), New England’s offense has scored 38 and 43 points in his two games back. 

“Brady has always had a guy in the slot that he’s comfortable with; whether it be (Wes) Welker, (Danny) Amendola or Edelman,” Fangio said. “It’s a big part of their offense. They haven’t missed a beat, but I really think it’s helped their offense and played a big part in them basically averaging 40 points in the last three weeks. I really appreciate and respect how good of a player he is and has been.”

If Callahan isn’t available, Sherrick McManis could be the next man up at slot corner. 

Bears lose Ed Donatell as defensive coaching staff makeover continues

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USA TODAY

Bears lose Ed Donatell as defensive coaching staff makeover continues

Ed Donatell indeed will follow Vic Fangio to Denver, with the now-former Bears defensive backs coach signing on to be the Broncos’ defensive coordinator on Tuesday.

 

 

Donatell was Fangio’s defensive backs coach from 2011-2018 with the San Francisco 49ers and Bears, and in Chicago was credited with the All-Pro development of cornerback Kyle Fuller and safety Eddie Jackson. His contract with the Bears expired after the 2018 season, so the Bears were unable to block him from interviewing for the Broncos’ defensive coordinator gig.

 

As things stand on Tuesday, only one defensive assistant from 2018 will remain with the team: Defensive line coach Jay Rodgers. Outside linebackers coach Brandon Staley took the same position under Fangio in Denver, while inside linebackers coach Glenn Pires and assistant defensive backs coach/safeties coach Roy Anderson will not return, too:

 

 

These departures aren’t surprising given Fangio said last week he hoped to bring some of his assistants from Chicago to Denver, while newly-hired defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano likely will want to bring in some of his own coaches in the coming weeks.

 

The Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs reported the Bears may consider Rob Ryan, the son of Buddy Ryan and longtime defensive coach, to replace Staley as outside linebackers coach. Ryan and Pagano worked together when Ryan was the Oakland Raiders’ defensive coordinator in the mid-2000s, and he would come with at least one player endorsement:

 

 

Meanwhile, rumors have swirled since Pagano’s hiring last Friday that he could bring Ed Reed — the sure-fire Hall of Fame safety with whom Pagano worked at the University of Miami and with the Baltimore Ravens — in as an assistant. Reed and Pagano are coaching together in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl this week in Los Angeles, with Pagano a head coach and Reed a defensive coordinator in the college showcase All-Star game.

 

Bears outside linebackers coach Brandon Staley follows Vic Fangio to Broncos

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NBC Sports Chicago

Bears outside linebackers coach Brandon Staley follows Vic Fangio to Broncos

One of the Bears defensive assistant coaches is officially following Vic Fangio to his new team.

The Denver Broncos announced outside linebackers coach Brandon Staley will take the same position under his old defensive coordinator.

The Chicago Tribune had reported Staley was not expected to remain in Chicago, and the team evidently allowed him to make a lateral move to continue on with Fangio.

However, it appears Denver wasn’t the only team interested in Staley’s services.

NFL Network reporter Tom Pelissero reports that the Green Bay Packers had also requested an interview with the outside linebackers coach, and the Bears denied it.

Staley joined the Bears in 2017 after three seasons as the defensive coordinator at Division-III John Carroll University in Ohio.

He helped coach Khalil Mack to another Pro Bowl season in 2018 while aiding in the development of Leonard Floyd, who the Bears plan to bring back for the optional fifth year on his contract.

Staley is the first defensive assistant coach who has been officially announced as not returning under new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano.

 

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