It’s no secret that Khalil Mack is firmly established as one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. Despite missing two games this season and playing two others on one ankle, he has nine sacks. With four games left, it’s all but a certainty that he will become the first Bears defender to reach the 10-sack mark since 2014 (Willie Young) and could become just the second to have more than 12 in a season.
Yet his impact goes beyond that. One thing people haven’t seen enough of is his unselfishness and leadership. No teammate has learned this more than Leonard Floyd. The embattled former 1st round pick got off to the worst start of his career in 2018, managing just four pressures and no sacks on the quarterback through his first six games.
The guy was floundering. Something had to be done. Outside linebackers coach Brandon Staley claims that Mack was instrumental in helping turn his season around.
“He has strung together a bunch of great weeks of practice,” outside linebackers coach Brandon Staley said. “He has spent a lot of time working on his game. I think he and Khalil (Mack) are developing really good chemistry together. And I think he’s finding that rhythm and gaining a lot of confidence every time he goes out there.”
Khalil Mack Leonard Floyd sacrifice is paying huge dividends for Bears
So what exactly did Mack do to help Floyd? No doubt he’s mentored him with tips on how to better use his technique as a rusher during practice. However, the biggest move was making a positional sacrifice for the good of the team. People tend to forget that most of his career, Mack played the left defensive end or left outside linebacker position where he’d be lined up against the right tackle.
It made sense the Bears would keep him there when he arrived in September. There was just one problem. That was also the spot Floyd had played since being drafted. Coaches felt he’d handle a move to the right outside linebacker spot well enough. Over time though it became clear Floyd had no rhythm or confidence.
So what did Mack do? He accepted the decision to switch places. In week eight against the Jets, he took over the right outside spot and Floyd was moved back to his original position on the left. Suffice to say that sacrifice changed everything. In the six games since then, Floyd has 22 pressures including two sacks on the quarterback. Mack doesn’t seem overly affected either. He has 18 pressures and four sacks in that same span.
The two are starting to become the fearsome combination people envisioned when Mack first arrived. A great sign for the future, both in the short and long-term.