Holmes: Amazingly, Mack Is Exceeding Expectations

September 24, 2018 - 9:21 am
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(670 The Score) When the Bears traded for edge rusher Khalil Mack, it was exciting.

His resume read like a player who could truly make a difference for a defense that was on the rise. Mack raised expectations about what this defense and the Bears could be. That Sept. 1 morning was really magical. Bears fans had a real reason for hope and not just hope for hope’s sake.

Mack is a known commodity in the NFL. He has the distinction of being voted All-Pro at two positions in the same season. That had never happened before. Score football analyst Greg Gabriel was on my show right after the trade and invoked the name of Lawrence Taylor when trying to find a comparison for Mack. To many that felt like heresy, but now it looks like prophecy.

I say all of this to explain that the expectations for Mack were sky high before he even donned his No. 52 jersey in navy and orange. Somehow, amazingly, Mack has exceeded those expectations.

If we only look as his numbers, it’s clear that he’s doing work. Through three games, Mack has four sacks, 11 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, an interception and a touchdown. This would be a good season for a lot of players, and Mack has done this in three games. Remember, Mack had no training camp. He just showed up and started wreaking havoc.

And let me go back to that forced fumble total. To put it into  perspective, the Bears haven't had a player with three forced fumbles in a season since 2014. Mack has three in three games.

The effect that Mack has on the rest of the defense is transformative. Mack garners so much attention that it allows defensive lineman Akiem Hicks to be single blocked. Hicks should’ve been voted to the Pro Bowl last year. He’s no bum, and now he's being left to work one-on-one. That’s advantage Bears, because Hicks is collapsing the pocket while Mack is forcing pressure from the outside. It's the perfect defensive two-step. 

The allocation of assets to block Mack means that there are fewer opposing receiving targets running down the field in the passing game. That makes life easier for the linebackers and defensive backs. Mack also speeds up the clock on quarterbacks, thereby affecting game plans. Packers star quarterback Aaron Rodgers called Mack "a matchup problem."

It’s been really fun to watch Mack work. He has a lethal initial bull rush that leaves offensive linemen off-balance at first contact. He has dancer's feet on his 250-pound frame, which allows him to mirror and stymie an athlete like Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in open space. Mack has arms like Mr. Fantastic, allowing him to reach a quarterback even when he’s engaged with a blocker. On top of all that, he has killer instincts, is super smart and is a relentless worker.

He’s too good to be true, yet he is.

There’s a danger in watching what Mack does so effortlessly -- we can become numb to the greatness. I implore you not to. What we’re watching is special, so celebrate it every time you see it. The Bears have one of the best players in the league, and it has clearly made a difference. Bears offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich had the perfect quote about Mack.

"When he gets off the bus, wow," Helfrich said. "That guy, he disrupts life."

It’s true and you get to see it every week. No matter how good we thought he could be, he’s surpassed our loftiest expectations and made the Bears' quest for legitimacy a reality.

Ask yourself: Where would the Bears be without Mack? ​

Laurence Holmes hosts the Laurence Holmes Show on 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @LaurenceWHolmes.