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Chicago Bears’ Mack strips it down to simple terms

September 22, 2018

Bears OLB Khalil Mack keeps it simple.

“The ball is the most important thing on the field,” the three-time Pro Bowler said. “You can get the big hits. But the ball is very, very important.”

Mack has been treating it as such. He’s forced fumbles on each of his two sacks, and he recovered the first one in the season opener.

“You definitely, consciously work on that,” he said. “That’s something you want to preach throughout the whole defense — getting the ball back to the offense. Creating a short field is a great feeling, but it feels even better when you can score it yourself.”

Mack did that in Week One when he returned an interception 27 yards for a touchdown, but it’s his difference-making ability to pressure the quarterback that sets him apart. His knack for getting the ball out is a bonus and a technique that can be taught, but it also requires the type of skill set very few possess.

“You can teach it, but I don’t know if you’re gonna get it,” Bears coach Matt Nagy admits. “With him, you just see … he cuts angles down so well. Once he gets around that edge, he’s so athletic and has such a good feel for the pocket or the quarterback. You saw him just reach his arm out and just tap the ball (vs. Seattle).”

Mack’s intensity at practice has already been well documented, but that has to be toned down at times when he and his defensive comrades hone their sack-strip techniques.

“Those guys do that in practice, and at times, he has to pull up on our scout quarterback, Chase (Daniel),” Nagy said. “(But) you see how quick he can get there. I think a lot of that is natural instincts. You can try to teach it, but I think sometimes you have it or you don’t.”

Just by being on the same team, though, the Bears’ young outside linebackers like Leonard Floyd (26), Isaiah Irving (24) and Kylie Fitts (23), and DE’s Roy Robertson-Harris (25) and Jonathan Bullard (24) can benefit from being exposed to Mack’s example.

“They’re gonna learn,” Nagy said. “They get to witness this and watch tape. To be able to see Khalil out there every day in practice, with some of the moves that he shows, it’s great for his peers to see that. It’s also good for some of our backup offensive linemen to see, too (in practice). It’s making them better.”

Arizona ORT Andre Smith will have the primary responsibility of containing Mack Sunday in the desert when the 0-2 Cardinals host the 1-1 Bears. But just as the Seahawks did Monday night, the Cardinals will give extra attention to Mack in passing situations.

“They were chipping him,” Nagy said, in reference to Seattle using running backs or tight ends, in addition to ORT Germain Ifedi, to try to slow Mack down. “They were putting (extra) guys on him. That’s a theme that we’re going to see. It’s going to be consistent every week.”

But it’s a tactic Mack has dealt with almost since the day he played his first NFL game, and it hasn’t prevented him from piling up 38.5 sacks and forcing 10 fumbles since the start of the 2015 season.

“He’s used to that,” Nagy said. “That’s nothing new to him. That’s going to create one-on-one matchups with other players. That’s just what Khalil brings, and that’s an advantage for us. When he’s able to get home vs. that (extra attention), that’s even better.”

And it’s better yet for the Bears and their offense when Mack gets the ball back.

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