It’s no secret that Khalil Mack is a superstar. Easily the best the Chicago Bears have employed since Brian Urlacher retired in 2013. If his career continues on its current trajectory, he will be wearing a gold jacket 15-20 years from now. Hopefully as a representative of his current team, of course. GM Ryan Pace may have paid a lot to get him, but when it’s all said and done most will probably say it was worth every penny.

So the only question to answer is where does he stand among the rest of the NFL? Adam Schein of NFL.com attempted to answer that question. He released his rankings of the 18 most indispensable players in the league, dividing them by offense and defense. On the latter, he had Aaron Donald ranked #1. Not a surprise given the year he had in 2018.

Right behind him though? You guessed it. Mack came in strong at #2.

“The entire complexion of the 2018 Chicago Bears changed when Ryan Pace pilfered Mack from the Raiders. Chicago instantly morphed from Cinderella to contender, as Mack delivered right from the jump (remember the strip-sack/recovery and pick-six in his first half as a Bear?) and finished the season with 12.5 sacks and six forced fumbles, nabbing first-team All-Pro honors.

Chicago already had talent on defense, but Mack took everything to a whole other level, striking fear in opposing offenses while raising the play and confidence level of his new teammates. The Bears ranked first in scoring defense and took the division title for the first time since 2010 (after finishing dead last the previous four seasons). Mack’s the straw that stirs this drink, and with Vic Fangio now in Denver, his presence is even more crucial.”

Khalil Mack is poised for a career year in 2019

What’s amazing about Mack is he had 12.5 sacks last year with no training camp, no preseason, missing two games, and playing another two on a bad ankle. Now those first two problems will be removed as he’s been with the team in practice from the start. There is also the added benefit of having Chuck Pagano as his new defensive coordinator.

This may not register with a lot of people, which isn’t a surprise. Pagano only has one year of prior experience at that job. However, former head coaches tend to do well at them for starters. Then there’s the fact he had the #3 overall defense during his lone year. Last but not least? Pagano has a certain knack when it comes to coaching pass rushers.

Several great ones had the best years of their careers under his watch. Terrell Suggs had 14 during his one season as DC in Baltimore. Robert Mathis exploded for 19.5 in 2013 when he was a head coach in Indianapolis. There’s no reason to think he can’t work similar magic for Mack, who might be the most talented of that trio.