Khalil Mack effect already invigorating Bears’ defense: ’A whole new dynamic’
Subscribe for unlimited digital access.
Try one month for $1!
Subscribe for unlimited digital access. Try one month for $1!
The palpable excitement and anticipation of Khalil Mack’s impact on the Bears’ defense is never more real than in the Bears’ locker room at Halas Hall.
“One-on-ones,” defensive lineman Akiem Hicks said. “I get a lot more one-on-ones.”
“Those 10 picks are looking a little bit more promising,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said.
Amukamara prefaced his comment by saying he was joking — a reference to the lofty goal he set in training camp of 10 interceptions this season. But the spirit of his comment has validity. With Mack in the Bears’ defense, Amukamara might not get 10 interceptions, but he’s almost certain to get a few more than he would have.
“I’m sure the clock in the quarterback’s head is going to be a lot shorter,” said Amukamara, who had no interceptions last year but still had a solid season that earned him a three-year, $27 million contract. “Even with guys in the middle like Akiem and [Leonard] Floyd on the outside, we’re still excited about that. But I can’t [downplay] it. What Mack does to our defense brings a whole new dynamic.”
Hicks, Floyd, nose tackle Eddie Goldman and inside linebackers Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith/Nick Kwiatkoski are first in line to benefit from Mack’s presence. But on a defense that was ninth in the NFL in points allowed last season, his impact figures to reverberate throughout the entire unit.
“I was pretty excited, man,’’ Hicks said. ‘‘It’s nice to have such a prolific rusher outside me. He’s the type of player that makes everybody’s job easier. If he’s on my side, another side — wherever he is — he just makes everybody’s job easier just because he’s such a threat.”
Mack’s arrival has provided a lift for offensive players, as well.
“We’re lucky,’’ guard Kyle Long said. ‘‘He’s with us now. Our defense just got a lot tougher. And we get to practice against a tougher defense now, and that’s going to be great for us. We went to Denver and got to practice against guys like Von [Miller], and that was a great opportunity for our guys. Now we get to do that every day.”
Coach Matt Nagy is feeling the excitement, too. Asked about his first impressions of Mack after practice, he couldn’t help but smile.
“Pretty good,” Nagy said. “Yeah, pretty good. You want second impressions, too?”
Unprompted, he interrupted the next question at his news conference to elaborate:
“Our right tackle [presumably backup Rashaad Coward], his second play he turned around and gave me the eyes — one of those [bug-eyed looks] when he rushed him, so that’s kind of good to see.’’
It was all good Monday, but the big question is whether Mack will get acclimated to coordinator Vic Fangio’s defense in time to play against the Packers on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
“We want to see some conditioning . . . [that] when he’s out there, he’s able to give 100 percent of what he can do,” Nagy said. “That’s just going to be communication between him, Vic and our trainers on a day-to-day basis.
“We know time is of the essence. We have to have a good, solid plan as to how we want to go about his reps, with that balance of not doing too much, yet pushing him to where we get him ready.”
Nagy acknowledged the temptation to get Mack on the field despite missing all of training camp and the preseason because of his holdout with the Raiders.
“It would be [hard to not play him], for sure,” Nagy said. “Most of us know what he can do. It’s the anticipation of being able to see it and then the happiness of knowing he’s doing it for your team. That’s a good thing.
“So we’ll see how it goes. But when he’s out there, I promise you this: He’s going to give it everything he has. We just have to figure out how much.”