Faces of the 2019 Chicago Bears
Bears general manager Ryan Pace pulled off a last-minute trade for the ages before the start of the last season. Sending four draft choices (two first-rounders, one third, and one sixth-round) to the Oakland Raiders landed the Bears one of the premier pass-rushers in the NFL. It was a steep price to pay, but Khalil Mack did not disappoint, thus his (barely) beating out Akiem Hicks for this spot as a face of the Bears.
Mack had 12.5 sacks with 18 hits on the quarterback, 10 tackles for loss, and six forced fumbles. That has only happened 11 times (four times since 2013, all coming last year) and was a first for the Bears. Only Richard Dent (who did it four times) has put up sack numbers for the Bears as Mack did. But it was also somewhat of a down year for the 28-year-old pass-rusher.
— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) July 5, 2019
It was a bounce-back in some ways. He recorded 10.5 sacks in 2017 and 11 in 2016 (his high is 15 in 2015). He only recorded 47 total tackles (37 solo) missing two games and being hobbled in two others by an ankle injury. For a player who averaged 57.8 total tackles before last season, 2018 was not great. The injury did not necessarily hinder him, he had five sacks before the injury and 7.5 after. But a fully healthy Mack is a problem for opposing lineman.
His health is not a concern now, and he will also get the benefit of a full camp with the Bears. Mack was in a contract dispute with the Raiders before the trade. That led to him missing the entire off-season program last year. Just think, after earning his fourth Pro Bowl trip and third All-Pro nod, Mack should be even better for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.
The youngest face of the Bears, a contract dispute also kept Roquan Smith from getting his rookie season started on time. He was the last first-round pick to sign his contract and missed all of training camp and the first two preseason games. Despite that, the Georgia product finished third in solo tackles (89), third in tackles for loss (eight), and tied for fourth in sacks (five) among rookies.
Smith became just the second Bears rookie to record at least 89 solo tackles and five sacks, joining Brian Urlacher. Fans hope that is a sign of things to come, but Pro Football Focus had a different opinion. He received an overall grade of 67.7 (39th) with a 58.4 run defense grade, and a 64.2 grade in coverage. Smith added value with his pass rushing ability (69.9 grade), but not enough.
— PFF (@PFF) January 6, 2019
Like Mack, Smith should benefit greatly from a full off-season with the team. Unlike Mack, Roquan represents Pace’s first first-round pick that was viewed as a hit from the start. Kevin White (now with the Arizona Cardinals), Leonard Floyd, and Mitchell Trubisky were all questioned when their names were called.
If Smith was able to do what he did being thrown right into the fire, it stands to reason that with a full camp and preseason he will be a force in 2019. Should he deliver on his potential he will undoubtedly be on the short-list of Pro Bowl linebackers and the next great one for the Bears.
No “Faces of the Bears” piece would be complete without mention of Mitchell Trubisky. National media is mixed (mostly down) on him as well. There is a lot at stake for the Bears in 2019, and it all starts with number 10.
You can find expectations for Trubisky here, but for both good and bad reasons, he is a (and perhaps the) face of the Bears. His sophomore season gave more hope. He completed 66.6 percent of his passes on the way to 3,223 yards and 24 touchdowns. That is a marked improvement in all of those areas, though his interceptions rose as well.
Mitch Trubisky and Jared Goff are a very interesting contrast in clutchness.
Trubisky's passer rating was 17th among starting QBs (95.4), while Goff's was 8th (101.1).
In just the last 7 mins of Q4 or OT, however, Goff plummeted to 30th (76.8), while Mitch was 5th (115.4).
— Brett Kollmann (@BrettKollmann) July 10, 2019
A threat on the ground as well, Trubisky added 421 yards and three scores on 68 carries (6.2 yard per carry). He is one of only six quarterbacks ever to hit both of those yardage totals in their sophomore season. Year three will hopefully lead to less actual running and more scrambling to buy time. The Bears had the sixth-best pass blocking win rate, per ESPN, but only ranked 21st in passing yardage.
Progress being reported early in training camp will be enhanced by an improved run game. The Bears methodology of valuing health over building chemistry in-game last preseason slowed him as well. This year they appear to be all-in with everyone (aside from the injured Trey Burton) expected to be available all summer. None will matter more than Trubisky.
Faces of the Bears
These three players are keys to the Bears success in 2019. But more than that, the franchise’s future is in their hands. They paid a hefty price for Mack and sped up their own timeline in the process. Smith has a long legacy to live up to but also needs to show he is all Bears fans think he is with Danny Trevathan potentially being gone after this season. As for Trubisky, it’s a quarterback-driven league.
Stats and info by Pro-Football-Reference.com and ESPN.com unless otherwise noted.