With Khalil Mack, the Bears can be the top five defense they hope to be

With Khalil Mack, the Bears can be the top five defense they hope to be

All offseason, the Bears’ mantra on defense was about continuity. Searching for that word among the thousands said by defensive players during training camp turns up a ton of results. 

That’s why this group of coaches and players was so confident it could improve from being a top-10 defense to a top five one this year despite Roquan Smith being their only major offseason addition. 

How about a preseason addition, though?

As Ryan Pace moved through an aggressive offseason in which he established that defensive continuity and overhauled the weapons around Mitch Trubisky, the one blind spot he left looked like outside linebacker. Veteran Sam Acho was retained, Aaron Lynch was brought in on a one-year prove-it contract and Kylie Fitts was taken with a sixth-round flier. The hope, as it seemed before Saturday morning, was that Leonard Floyd — club on his hand and all — would make a huge leap in Year 3 and provide the Bears with the edge rushing spark they desperately needed. 

Floyd could still do that. But Saturday morning’s reported blockbuster trade for Khalil Mack netted the Bears a guy who’s established as one of the NFL’s best pass rushers. And so, your Week 1 defense will now look like this:

        Akiem Hicks        Eddie Goldman        Jonathan Bullard
Khalil Mack            Danny Trevathan        Nick Kwiatkoski         Leonard Floyd
Kyle Fuller            Adrian Amos            Eddie Jackson        Prince Amukamara

Eventually, of course, Smith will take over for Kwiatkoski as the Bears’ starting inside linebacker, adding more speed and athleticism to this defense. 

Continuity is great. Having Hicks and Goldman play next to each other for another year and retaining the entire starting secondary from 2017 is a positive. Trevathan knows Fangio’s defense like the back of his hand. 

But to be great, the Bears’ edge rushers had to be better. They just got a whole lot better on Saturday.

It's easy to imagine Mack and Hicks lining up on the same side of the field to terrorize an offensive line, with Goldman dutily hoovering up a double-team on the interior. That could then trigger Floyd into a one-on-one matchup to get to the quarterback. Applying more pressure on Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins, Matt Stafford and the rest of the quarterbacks the Bears face should help generate more takeaway opportunities for Fuller/Amos/Jackson/Amukamara.

In short: The possibilities are there for the Bears to become the top-five defense they thought they could be before acquiring Mack. 

Mack by the numbers

A few quick notes to get to know Mack:

— His 79 total pressures in 2017, per Pro Football Focus, were tied for second in the NFL last year behind only Denver’s Von Miller (83). For comparison, the Bears generated 88 pressures as a team during five preseason games this year. 

— Mack was one of six edge rushers to have a PFF grade of 90 or higher, with his 90.2 grade ranking sixth. 

— In 2016, Mack was PFF’s highest-graded edge rusher (92.3) and had a league-best 96 total pressures, 10 more than the second-highest total. 

— Mack was behind only Seattle’s Michael Bennett with 82 pressures in 2015, and his 16 sacks and 91.8 grade both led the league. 

— Only Atlanta’s Chandler Jones has more sacks since 2015 than Mack, who has 36 1/2. Miller (34 1/2) and Aaron Donald (30), the previous two highest-paid defensive players before Mack is expected to take that mantle, fell short of his total. 

President Trump believes NFL season should start on time

President Trump believes NFL season should start on time

The sports world is one of many industries forced to a halt by the coronavirus outbreak. As uncertainty continues to loom over professional American sports leagues, the commissioners of a number of leagues had a conference call with President Trump on Saturday.

It’s worth noting the NCAA was not included on this call. All leagues represented were fully professional.

Since the call concluded some info has come out about what was discussed. Trump appears optimistic about sports in the later summer and early fall.

Obviously, there are many currently unknown variables that go into that scenario becoming a possibility.

Adam Schefter and Adrian Wojnarowski have more info on what was discussed on the call. According to their reporting, NBA commissioner Adam Silver talked about the desire to restart once public health officials allow it:

Silver told those on the call the leagues were the first to shut down and that he and the NBA would love to lead the way in starting the economy once there was an "all clear" from public health officials, sources familiar with the call told ESPN.

The NBA and MLB are considering alternate plans for how to resume their seasons, although there is pessimism within the NBA about resuming this season. The NFL has more lead time before its season would begin. The first game of the NFL preseason is set for Aug. 6 and the regular season is currently scheduled to start in September.

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Bears' QB competition confirmed by Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace


Sports Talk Live Podcast: Bears' QB competition confirmed by Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace

It's a Friday edition of SportsTalk Live. Host David Kaplan is joined by David Haugh, Patrick Finley, and KC Johnson.

Bears general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy confirm that there will be an open competition for starting quarterback between Nick Foles and Mitch Trubisky. The guys wonder how open it will actually be. Meanwhile, Nagy says he can sense Trubisky is a fierce competitor. The panel wonders if competition will elevate his play and make him better.

The Bulls have officially begun their search for the new executive to lead their basketball operations. Bulls Insider KC goes through the potential candidates. Haugh and Finley wonder how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect their search and ability to land a big name. And what about Jim Boylen's future? KC says it will ultimately be up to the new person in charge but reminds everyone how much Boylen is liked by the current front office.

Later, former NFL coach Dave Wannstedt joins Kap on the show from Florida. Wanny dissects the Bears quarterback competition and explains why the pressure will always be high on Mitch no matter what. They also talk about new tight end Jimmy Graham's impact on the offense and pass rusher Robert Quinn's impact on the defense. And what's Wanny up to during quarantine? He tells Kap the shows he's binge-watching and gives his review of "Tiger King". 

0:00- There will be an open competition for the Bears starting quarterback job. Does either QB have an advantage? Will competition make Mitch a better quarterback? Also, how much better does Robert Quinn make the defense?

8:00- The Bulls have begun their search for the new head of their basketball operations. KC goes through some of the candidates. Plus, the panel discusses what this means for Jim Boylen's future, John Paxson's role in the search and his future role in the organization.

16:00- Dave Wannstedt joins Kap on the show. He talks about Mitch's chances to win the QB competition and his chances to keep the job throughout next season. Plus, they talk about Jimmy Graham's role in the offense, Robert Quinn's impact on the defense and Wanny gives his honest review of "Tiger King".

Sports Talk Live Podcast