One man doesn’t make a defense.
When discussing the Chicago Bears, Khalil Mack gets most of the headlines, and to be fair, the All-Pro edge rusher deserves them.
Since he descended on the Windy City in 2018, Mack has totaled 17 sacks, forced 10 fumbles, and shown week in and week out that he’s one of the best defensive ends in football. Throw in the fact that he has three-and-a-half sacks and a trio of forced fumbles in the past two weeks alone, and the Bears boast one of the best statistical defenses in the NFL, and it’s easy to see why the former Buffalo Bull has garnered so much national attention as of late.
But, even so, Head Coach Jon Gruden and his team are worried about the collective of Chicago defenders this weekend, not just No. 52.
“Well, the problem is you’re not just scheming for him [Mack], said Gruden following Wednesday’s press conference. “[Leonard] Floyd is not a bag of rocks, the guy is a great player. They have two of the best inside players in the league and they have a great blitz scheme, so it’s easier said than done. Let’s put two guys on Mack. They blitz him up where you can’t get help, that’s why we brought in Trent Brown, that’s why we drafted Kolton Miller in the first round, those guys are going to have some tough snaps against a great player.”
As Gruden said, Trent Brown was brought in during free agency to lock down the right side of the offensive line, and although all eyes will be on him and Kolton Miller as they try to stymy Mack and Co., keeping the Chicago defense at bay will require a collective effort from the entire offensive line.
“The object of the game is to do your job, everybody – all five of us – have to do the best we can to keep DC upright, or whoever’s back there for that matter,” explained Brown.
That said, big No. 77 knows that he has quite the challenge in front of him with slowing down Mack.
“The guy’s a special talent, for sure,” Brown said. “You definitely have to bring your “A” game whenever you’re playing a guy of such caliber, and just have to do it again Sunday.”
Headed into Sunday’s game, the Bears allow just under 291 yards per game, good for fifth in the NFL, and they’re even better than that against the run, ranked third, allowing just 61.5 rushing yards each time out.
“They’re still a 3-4 defense, they still are very multiple,” said Gruden. “They can play a number of fronts in their base and their sub, and they got great players on all three levels. You don’t need a whole lot of schemes, honestly, when you have players like they have. They have some of the best run-stuffers I have seen. [Akiem] Hicks, [Eddie] Goldman, they’re outstanding players. They’re deep. They got guys that are first-year guys that are undrafted players, I don’t know who they are, but they are great players. They pop off the film. They are powerful, strong, athletic people and they recover. The linebacking corps can recover. They’re one-on-one tacklers, they’re into football and they are a lot of fun to watch.”
In addition to their stinginess in letting opposing offenses move the ball, with a plus-eight turnover differential, the Bears also rank tops in that stat also.
“Every foot you make against this defense is a hard-earned foot, and we are going to have to be at our best,” Gruden said. “There is no question, this is the cream of the crop and it’ll be a good gauge as to where we are. Hopefully, we get some guys that are healthy that can go out and compete.”
The Silver and Black will practice Thursday and Friday before kicking off against the Bears Sunday night at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London.
Raiders players, alumni and the Raiderettes visit Royal Air Force Mildenhall to spend time with the troops and tour the station in England.