BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – Khalil Mack has the attention of the NFL, particularly of quarterbacks and offensive tackles. Chicago’s Field Museum should perhaps be taking notice, deciding where to put the “Khalil Mack Pavilion,” at least in the estimation of one Mack teammate.
“I consider Khalil the next evolutionary step in the human athlete,” tight end Ben Braunecker said on Friday, shaking his head. “He’s the combination of size, speed and strength that I’ve just never seen before. When he puts his hands on you and goes for it, it’s as if your whole body moves around.
“You feel the force and it’s an uphill battle at that point.”
Braunecker has seen significant time opposite Mack during training camp due to the slow returns from injuries of Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen. The experience has been a learning one for the former Harvard Crimson, although he hasn’t come up with any tips on how to block one of the NFL’s elite pass rushers.
“I’m sure if I asked him, he’d be willing,” said Braunecker, a molecular and cellular biology major at Harvard. “But I don’t think there are any ‘tips’ to blocking him. I don’t know what you could do better.”
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“How’s Trubisky looking?”
It is the question put to every fan, media member and about anyone else coming back from the time at Bears training camp. It is also the question to which there is no clear answer possible until and after Sept. 5 when Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky opens the regular season against the Green Bay Packers.
In the meantime, observations are possible, but the difficulty lies in the reality that outsiders don’t know what specific play Trubisky was being tasked with running. And they do not know what accompanying instructions the third-year quarterback is being given that affect play execution.
Irrespective of instructions, play calls, the elite defense facing him, all factors considered, Trubisky has not been a consistently dominant force in this, his third NFL camp and second under Nagy and staff. Defensive teammates have remarked on his clear development and control of the offense, and it would be difficult for any quarterback to consistently dominate a defense that was the far-and-away best against passers (72.9 combined rating for opponents; Baltimore No. 2 at 80.6).
Complicating any Trubisky critique, particularly when interceptions or apparently errant throws happen, is that coach Matt Nagy has repeatedly stressed that Trubisky is again this training camp being instructed to take calculated risks and put footballs into tight places, throws he might not attempt in real game situations.
However, since some of those go-for-it throws are being intercepted or broken up, the question is: Is Trubisky capable of getting throws into tight spots, something that the greats and very-good’s at his position are expected to do?
“He's trying,” Nagy said. “I'll tell you what: Yesterday he had two throws, probably his two best throws of camp that he threw that there's not that many quarterbacks in this league can make that throw. He had two of them yesterday.
“[Sunday] he tried to squeeze one in there right at the end of practice, in between [nickel corner] Buster [Skrine], and the safety and Buster jumped up and tipped it. The last thing I told [Trubisky] was that I'm glad that he forced that, that I'm glad that he tested it. Now he knows that same angle that the wide receiver came out of his break with the nickel – he beat us at the depth that he was at – [Trubisky] probably can't make that throw.”
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Very, very difficult to conjure up the right words to express those feelings loosed by the shocking news Sunday morning that Darryl Drake had died at age 62. “Double-D” was the Bears wide-receivers coach under Lovie Smith during Smith’s entire 2004-12 tenure, and was without question one of the highest-quality individuals this reporter has had the good fortune to cover and know.
Darryl was beloved by his players, ranging from Muhsin Muhammed to Devin Hester to Johnny Knox to Alshon Jeffery to Brandon Marshall, even as he was pushing them constantly, but while looking out for them as both men and “my babies.” Offseason lunch-grabs with Double-D up there in Gurnee was the best of times, and hooking up at the Combine was one of the best reasons to make that trip, including the last time I saw Darryl there, in March.
I think my last text to him right afterward was that I simply couldn’t believe that he couldn’t fix whatever the problem was between Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown there in Pittsburgh (he was the Steelers’ receivers coach). I meant it.
Message: Don’t put off picking up the phone or texting a friend. That “next time” isn’t promised to any of us.