Opinions on the Chicago Bears outlook for the 2021 season has fluctuated this entire offseason, but the consensus seems to have them around the middle of the pack in the NFL. ESPN and Pro Football Focus recently collaborated on a roster ranking for each team and they have the Bears checking in at 23.
In that same ranking on ESPN Insider, they gave their picks for each team’s biggest strength heading into the 2021 season and here’s what they wrote about the Bears.
Biggest strength: Khalil Mack’s 17.5 sacks over the past two seasons aren’t even a top-10 mark in the league. As a result, many would say he has fallen off a bit. That isn’t even remotely the case. Since joining the Bears in 2018, Mack’s 92.5 PFF grade ranks No. 1 among all qualifying edge defenders. Looking only at last season, Mack was the most valuable edge defender in the league, according to PFF WAR, edging out T.J. Watt, J.J. Watt and Joey Bosa. Mack is still the gold standard at the position.
It’s good that they referenced his low sack totals from the last two years in their first sentence, because that’s the first thing some fans point to when discussing Mack’s impact.
But as their grades show, Mack is still a game wrecker, so I agree with their pick of him being the Bears top strength this year. Sure he’s not getting home as often as he’d like when rushing the passer, but I promise that if you specifically watch him on a play by play basis, you’ll see his presence is making a difference.
Part of his lower sack totals could be the nagging injuries he’s been playing through, or perhaps it’s teams scheming up quicker throws to not let Mack get around, under, or through offensive tackles. So in order for Mack and the pass rush to be as effective as possible, the secondary really needs to come through this year.
But more on that next time out...