Chicago Bears Coaches Corner: Week One
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Ok, I seriously thought about getting to Khalil Mack at the end just to drive everyone nuts, but I’m a nice guy, so I’ll get it out-of-the-way upfront. Mack played every bit like the Defensive Player of the Year that he is, and earned every penny of his game check.
That said, many also think he can and will do better as his conditioning and game shape improve. If he can continue to play like he did last night all season, all of those who said that the Bears may have overpaid will have to eat a big slice of crow pie, yours truly included. There has been speculation that he might cost us Jordan Howard, but running backs are far easier to replace than elite pass rushers.
While one game does not make a season, Mack provided ample evidence that he will in fact be a difference maker who helps to decide the outcome of games. That’s worth 10% of the salary cap, it just is. The Bears will have to adjust around it, but it is always easier to adjust when the person you are adjusting around makes everyone else around him better. Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant were examples of that in the NBA, as was Wayne Gretzky in the NHL. You don’t mind having average pieces when the central figure is allowing them to play above average.
The downside is that outside of Mack’s stellar game, there really wasn’t much to talk about here. In the official statistics, not one other outside linebacker got even a tackle. Not Floyd, not Acho, and not Lynch either. While the defense will be better with Mack, they cannot achieve a collective greatness without his counterpart playing off of him and making plays as well. In fact, the opposite OLB should be having a field day as both Hicks and Mack are on the same side drawing three and sometimes four blockers. The silence on the opposite side is disturbing, and is hopefully something that the team and Coach Glenn Pires will address moving forward.
The Defensive Line was strong and did their job well all night. Akiem Hicks provided the highlight reel play when he drove Bryan Bulaga back into Aaron Rogers. Another came when Roy Robertson-Harris pressured Rogers into coughing up the ball to Mack for a pick-six. Eddie Goldman and Jonathan Bullard did exactly what was expected of them by keeping the linebackers free and able to flow and make plays. It’s an undervalued skill to most fans, but to a Defensive Coordinator, it’s the percussion section to a symphony, the gasoline to the engine, the ammo to the gun. You simply must have it, or your defense crumbles.
It won’t get noticed by many, and it wasn’t flashy or “sexy” as many commentators have said in the past, but it is what enabled our defense to play the way it did, and it will be what will allow it to move forward and improve. I think they deserve a serious kudos for their dirty work all game long.