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10 Most Important Bears of 2019: #2 Is Khalil Mack the best edge rusher in the NFL?

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For the 11th straight year, I’m bringing you who I believe will be the ten most important Chicago Bears for the upcoming season and at #2 is Chicago’s most important defensive player, Kahlil Mack.

Chicago Bears v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Rob Leiter/Getty Images

In his five years in the NFL, Khalil Mack has yet to lead the league in sacks. He’s averaged better than 10 a season, but since his second year as a pro — which was the first of his four consecutive Pro Bowls — Mack has finished 2nd, 8th, 15th, and 13th (last year with the Chicago Bears) in sacks. Mack may have yet to lead the league in sacking the quarterback, but his affect on offensive game plans can’t be denied. He’s one of those ‘find him on every play’ defenders, that offenses need to be wary of. Whether it’s simply sliding the pass protection to his side, or sending an extra blocker or two at him, coordinators spend extra time preparing for his potential impact.

Mack is always mentioned with the best pass rushers in the NFL, but is he the best edge rusher lining up these days? Not according to the latest rankings by CBS Sports. They have Mack at number two behind Denver’s Von Miller and here’s what they had to say.

Remember early in the ‘18 season when Jon Gruden kept complaining about the lack of a pass rush? This is what happens when you ship your best player -- and one of the NFL’s best players -- out of town. Mack had 12.5 sacks for the NFL’s No. 1 defense and played a large role in taking Chicago to the top of the NFC North. At 28, his best days remain in front of him.

Contrary to what Ricky Bobby may think, second isn’t bad in this instance, although it is important to keep in mind that it is based on an opinion more than anything.

In comparing Mack and Miller the last four seasons, they are tied with 49 sacks, but Miller has the edge in quarterback hits, 105 to 90. Miller has one more fumble recovery the last four years, 7 to 6, while Mack has the edge in forced fumbles, 14 to 13.

Mack also leads Miller in passes defended (12 to 10), tackles for loss (62 to 53), interceptions (2 to 1), defensive touchdowns (2 to 0), and tackles (275 to 218). These two are the most impactful edge rushers in the league today. As a Bears fan that has watched much more Mack tape than Miller tape, I can’t give an unbiased opinion on this one, so I’ll let you decide which player better.

Khalil Mack is a dominating presence on the football field and he’s the most important part of Chicago’s defense in 2019. The Bears were primed to have a good defense in 2018, but once Ryan Pace duped the Raiders into trading them Mack instead of the ‘better’ Green Bay Packers, Chicago went on to have the best defense in the NFL.

He does check in ahead of Miller in NFL.com’s NFL’s most indispensable defensive players for the 2019 season. That’s basically their ranking of importance, and here’s what they had to say about Mack.

The entire complexion of the 2018 Chicago Bears changed when Ryan Pace pilfered Mack from the Raiders. Chicago instantly morphed from Cinderella to contender, as Mack delivered right from the jump (remember the strip-sack/recovery and pick-six in his first half as a Bear?) and finished the season with 12.5 sacks and six forced fumbles, nabbing first-team All-Pro honors.

Chicago already had talent on defense, but Mack took everything to a whole other level, striking fear in opposing offenses while raising the play and confidence level of his new teammates. The Bears ranked first in scoring defense and took the division title for the first time since 2010 (after finishing dead last the previous four seasons). Mack’s the straw that stirs this drink, and with Vic Fangio now in Denver, his presence is even more crucial.

There’s one more thing to keep in mind regarding Mack in 2019. He’s going to have a full offseason to ready himself to do his thing with the Bears. A year ago he was working out on his own as he was waiting for a new contract or a trade to take place. Chicago swung the trade a week before they opened the season against the Packers and it took Mack a few weeks to get fully up to speed in the system. This year we’re going to see a laser-focused and in-shape Mack from day one, and that’s bad news for the NFL.