Can Chicago Bears pass rusher Khalil Mack win defensive player of the year in 2020?
Chicago Bears pass rusher Khalil Mack isn’t just one of the best defensive players in the NFL, he’s one of the best players in the NFL. When Bears general manager Ryan Pace traded two-first round picks in 2018, as well as reward Mack with a six-year contract extension worth $141 million dollars, and $60 million dollars in guaranteed money, the goal was simple: Reward Mack for being an elite defensive talent.
Two years later, Mack has notched 21 sacks, 32 quarterback hits, and 18 tackles for loss in two seasons with the Bears. Many consider Mack to be the second-best defensive player in the NFL, behind Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who’s won the NFL’s defensive player of the year award twice.
Mack, who last won the same award in 2016, appears to have regressed in 2019, according to many. And why? Critics of Mack point to his decline in production. Mack would finish 2019 with just 8.5 sacks, the first time since his rookie season in 2014 that he’d fail to have double-digit sacks.
But let’s look at some of the factors that led to a “decline” in Mack’s production. First, the Bears lost key starters on defense, mainly due to injuries in 2019. Without guys like Akiem Hicks, Danny Trevathan, and Roquan Smith, Mack was forced to carry the Bears front seven. Second, Mack himself dealt with back and neck injuries, which hindered his play all throughout the season.
Now, it appears as if Mack is ready to come back stronger than ever in 2020. He’s got one goal in mind which is to win football games. To win 12 during his first year with the Bears but fail to advance in the playoffs and follow it up with an eight-win season simply isn’t good enough.
That’s Mack on a team level but on an individual level, there are things that he clearly wants to accomplish as well. One of the main things on his list? Win the NFL’s defensive player of the year award. Some may say that this is a stretch for him, however, he’s proven that he can take games over and make big plays when needed.
So let’s answer the question. Can Mack win defensive player of the year in 2020? Absolutely. He’ll be fully healthy again as will the rest of the Bears defense. In an effort to help Mack even further, the Bears made it a point to sign Robert Quinn to upgrade the pass rush. The goal? Ensure that someone is always getting to the quarterback and allow for Mack to have more one-on-one opportunities.
Many may still consider Donald to be superior to Mack but if the face of the Bears defense in healthy in 2020, which he’s expected to be, there’s no reason to think that he can’t put together a strong season and ultimately come away with the NFL’s defensive player of the year award once again.