Khalil Mack's recent disappearance says more about the Bears' defense than it says about his own play

Khalil Mack's recent disappearance says more about the Bears' defense than it says about his own play

Just in case there are still Bears fans out who are skeptical about Murphy’s Law (Mercury doesn’t even go into retrograde until February!), a significant portion of Chuck Pagano’s press conference on Thursday afternoon was spent talking about how Khalil Mack didn’t show up in the box score against the Rams. 

“You guys watch the game, right? You saw the game plan and how they attacked us,” the Bears’ defensive coordinator said. “We understand how they are attacking him and how they’re taking care of him. How they’re tending to him. They were going to come out and try to run the football and keep it third and manageable.

“A lot of 3rd-and-1, 3rd-and-2, 3rd-and-3. Never really any opportunities other than four times to really rush the passer for anybody, not only him but for our defense. So, just because he doesn’t show on [the stat sheet] doesn’t mean he’s not doing his job.”

It’s been a frustrating six weeks for Mack, who has one sack since the Bears’ Week 4 win over Minnesota. Per Pro Football Focus, here are Mack’s Pass Rushing grades – and where they rank – during that stretch: 

Week 5: 48.4 (113)
Week 7: 52.3 (92
Week 8: 71.1 (23
Week 9: 55.6 (80
Week 10: 63.8 (34)
Week 11: 59.4 (51

“You see that with some of the production and you see that with a lot of superstars,” Matt Nagy said on Monday. “You can go back to last year with Aaron Donald, when he played us, there wasn’t any. Sometimes that happens, but it opens it up for other guys. He was a part of that first play of the game with the fumble. He was right in there with Eddie Jackson, ripping that ball out. Khalil, he doesn’t have to change anything he’s doing.” 

Pagano admitted that in theory, teams throwing two or three guys on Mack every single play should open up plenty of opportunities for other players but added that, “when that happens, [guys] have to win those matchups.” Not having Akiem Hicks, whose absence matches the timing of Macks' drop in box score production pretty closely, certainly hasn't helped. And now they'll be without Danny Trevathan – cough, Murphy's Law – for the majority of these final six weeks.

"Yeah, you could say because he’s not in there, you know, they don’t have to do this, that or the other to the guys that are in there, but you know, we got good football players in there," Pagano said. "You don’t want to be without anybody. We don’t want to be without Akiem, we don’t want to be without Danny. But that’s where we’re at."

Mack hasn’t had less than 10 sacks since his rookie season in 2014 (4), and he currently ranks 34th in sacks (5.5). Even still, PFF has him ranked as the eighth-best pass-rusher (86.0) and gave him the fourth-best overall defensive grade (89.4). The traditional stats obviously haven’t been there, but neither Nagy or Pagano has seen that frustration creep in and affect his attitude, or that infamous work ethic. 

“Khalil is a unique guy,” Pagano added. “He’s a great person, he’s a great pro, he comes to work every single day, even though this is happening from the first snap to the last snap. He’s a hard-charger. He just continues to go out there and grind and do what he has to do for this football team. I think the biggest thing for him is he wants to win.” 

Aaron Rodgers suggests the end of his Packers career is near

Aaron Rodgers suggests the end of his Packers career is near

For as much as Bears fans despise Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, it's fair to say he's a smart guy both on and off the field. And when his team traded up to select Utah State quarterback Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft, he knew the end of his run in Green Bay is coming sooner than maybe anyone would've expected.

“You know, based on just the circumstances around everything when you just look at the facts," Rodgers said on the '10 questions with Kyle Brandt' podcast. "They traded up, they drafted him (Love). I would say they like him, they want to play him.”

Rodgers explained the difference between when the Packers selected him in the first round despite Brett Favre still playing at a high level, and now. 

“It’s a different environment. In 2005, my first year we were 4-12, second year, we were 8-8. There wasn’t a clamoring to play me because it was normal for young guys to sit. In the third year, ’07, we go 13-3. We’re one play, we’re overtime in the NFC Championship playing at home against the Giants from going to the Super Bowl. Different scenario. Now, I think quarterbacks are playing earlier. It gives some latitude for young coaches and GMs to play their guys. And I get it. I really do.”

Rodgers admitted that his time as a Packer will likely end because of a decision made by the front office, not him. And what about playing for the Bears? Is that something Rodgers would consider?

“Oh man, that’s a tough thought right there, man,” he said.

Charles Leno, Bobby Massie left off of PFF's top offensive tackles list

Charles Leno, Bobby Massie left off of PFF's top offensive tackles list

It's really hard to find one quality starting offensive tackle in the NFL, let alone two. Whether either of the Bears' starting tackles qualifies as a quality player is up for debate, but both Charles Leno Jr. and Bobby Massie are, at the very least, competent starters in the league.

According to the analytics team at Pro Football Focus, neither Leno nor Massie ranks as a top-25 player at their position, however. Both Bears starters were left off of PFF's new list of the game's 25 best blindside protectors, one that included Giants rookie first-round pick, Andrew Thomas.

Massie was the Bears' 11th highest-graded player on offense in 2020, finishing the season with a 63.2 grade from PFF. It was the worst season score Massie's received in his career. As for Leno, he finished 2019 with a 58.6, which was his worst mark since his rookie season (53.6).

Massie was PFF's 65th overall tackle last year, while Leno was 87th. It's easy to see why they were left off the list.

The NFC North wasn't entirely blanked. David Bakhtiari (Packers) ranked third overall, while Taylor Decker (Lions) was 23rd.