Bears

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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NFL reveals football helmet mouth shields to prevent COVID-19 spread

NFL reveals football helmet mouth shields to prevent COVID-19 spread

The majority of the football world got its first glimpse of a new mouth shield developed by Oakley on Monday. The shield was designed to help protect players from the COVID-19 pandemic while they’re on the field.

According to ESPN, there is currently no mandate for players to wear the protective shield, however the NFL’s medical experts are advocating its use.

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The shields have already been distributed to the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers for feedback, according to the ESPN report. That report mentions the two biggest concerns about the shields so far are visibility and breathability.

Most importantly, the NFL's engineering committee Dr. Jeff Crandall told ESPN that the shields prevent direct transmission of droplets from players’ mouths.

Per the report, Oakley tested the shields by spraying fluid particles to mimic droplets expelled by players.

"I don't know that there's a direct percentage that anyone's come up with because a laboratory is not the on-field environment, obviously," Crandall told ESPN. "There's lots of things that players do on the fields that they're not easily replicating [in] the laboratory, but it is a significant blockage to transmission of droplets. There is no straight pathway through the face shield or visor for a droplet to be transmitted."

While Oakley is the official supplier of the shields for the NFL, the report mentions that players may end up other brands that are developing similar products.

"Just like everything we do, whether we're talking about better cleats or better performing helmets, it's all about something that's safer and yet also protects and in many cases enhances performance," Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL's chief medical officer, told ESPN. "That's the same mantra and the same sort of approach that we're taking here. I'm really pleased with how the work is going along.

“We're not at a finished product yet. Like most things in health safety, there's really no finish line here. So we're hoping to continue to innovate and improve as we go along. But we're excited about where we are and excited about the potential role this may play in risk mitigation on the field."


RELATED: Here's where things stand with the 2020 NFL season and COVID-19

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ESPN lists Bears' offensive weapons as NFL's 5th-worst group in new rankings

ESPN lists Bears' offensive weapons as NFL's 5th-worst group in new rankings

Now that you've clicked (thanks!), look away, Bears fans. 

In a newly-published, rankings-style piece from ESPN's Bill Barnwell, the Bears' offense once again finds itself in bad company. What stings about this particular post is that it has literally nothing to do with quarterbacks. 

Barnwell ranked all 32 NFL teams based on their 'offensive weapon' groups, and you know it's bad when it's faster to find the Bears writeup by manually scrolling down instead of using the provided hyperlink jump. Chicago's group came in 28th, which is certainly fair – albeit lacking much optimism – given 2019's performance across the board. Here's how Barnwell sees it: 

Allen Robinson deserves better than this. Having spent his entire career catching passes from Blake Bortles and Mitchell Trubisky, he will get a comparative upgrade this season if the Bears start Nick Foles. The former Penn State star held up his end of the bargain a year ago, racking up 1,147 yards and seven touchdowns on 154 targets. Anthony Miller finished the season with 656 yards and averaged nearly 1.5 yards per route run, but drops and shoulder injuries have been a concern through his first two seasons, and the former second-rounder likely profiles best as a full-time slot receiver.

The other weapons on this roster all failed to live up to expectations, although much of that was due to injuries. (Tarik Cohen's seven drops on 103 targets are the exception.) Players like Cohen, Ted Ginn Jr. and Cordarrelle Patterson could be intriguing supplemental pieces in the right scheme, but it's difficult to count on coach Matt Nagy making the most of their ability. Free-agent signee Jimmy Graham's contract was universally panned, but even leaving the money aside, he was anonymous last season in a Packers offense desperate for a second receiving option and turns 34 in November. David Montgomery is the big hope for the Bears to climb up these rankings, but as a rookie, he was below average by every running measure I could find.

What's especially depressing is comparing this year's ranking with the previous two of the Nagy era. Going into 2018, the Bears' ranked 9th (!!) and last season they found themselves at 17. In a span of three years, Nagy's offense has managed to fall 19 spots in the eyes of one of the NFL's most prominent writers. Ultimately, is this all that important? Probably not! But it's a stark reminder that the Bears' offense has a whole lot to prove this season, and that goes way beyond the quarterback position.