LAKE FOREST – Just think, he did all of those things on the field for the Bears without even having the benefit of an offseason with the team.
If you look at it more, Khalil Mack didn’t even have training camp, since he held out of the Raiders’ workouts in hopes of a new deal or a trade. He got the latter, joined the Bears a week before their season opener with the Packers, and made a substantial impact immediately for a team that experienced a major turnaround.
Just imagine what he might be able to do with an entire offseason program with the club, even if it does happen with the team switching defensive coordinators.
“Getting everything in my grasp as far as understanding the defense, this is ideal,” said Mack of having the entire offseason to work with the Bears. “This is what you want. You want an offseason, a full offseason, to understand the defense. I mean, two weeks or one-and-a-half weeks before the first game of year is not really prepared in my opinion but I tried to do my best last year.”
He certainly did.
Mack had a strip sack and an interception touchdown in the first half against the Packers and was the NFC’s Defensive Player of the Month in September. Despite losing two games to an ankle injury, Mack finished with 12 1/2 sacks and six forced fumbles on his way to being named to a Pro Bowl along with a first-team All-Pro for the third time in his career.
As he comes into a full offseason, Mack isn’t being shy about his goals for not only the 2019 season, his second with the Bears, but also his career. During a conversation with outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino, the outside linebacker revealed his career desire.
“He asked me what I wanted to do and what I wanted to be. I want to be the best. I mean, I want to be the best to ever play the game,” said Mack. “He expected me to say that and I was cool with it and that’s what were doing, we’re grinding. So I’m trying to work towards that.”
It’s quite a goal, considering that Giants legend Lawrence Taylor is considered the greatest rush linebacker in the history of the game, having accumulated 132 1/2 sacks in his 13-year career in New York. Mack is certainly off to a start that would put him on that level, netting 53 sacks along with 15 forced fumbles which have helped him to four Pro Bowls along with NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2016.
While a desire for the end of his career, Mack does stay grounded in the present. While he hopes a full offseason with the team will translate to a big regular season with the Bears, he does understand those are only hopes at the moment.
“I don’t do much talking, I let my play do that for me,” said Mack. “But the expectation is to be a lot better for sure.”
That’s a scary thought, especially for the team’s opponents in the NFC North, and what they saw from Mack after a shortened preseason in 2018.