Ask the question. Which position is the most concerning for the Chicago Bears going into the 2019 season? Most will argue between two areas. One is kicker (obviously) and the other is tight end. Elliott Fry and Eddy Pineiro remain deadlocked in what has been a lukewarm competition thus far. Meanwhile, Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen have traded injury problems throughout training while the depth pieces behind them offer inconsistency.
Both arguments have plenty of validity. However, they aren’t alone either. Not enough people are making a fuss about the Bears’ outside linebacker position. Look, having Khalil Mack is a boon for this team. He’s a superstar and makes life so much easier for that front seven. He’s still just one man though. The NFL proves that the best pass rushes involve the ability to send waves at the quarterback.
This is why depth is so important at outside linebacker, and frankly, the Bears don’t have it. Let’s review what they have behind Mack on the depth chart.
Chicago Bears are leaning too much on Mack’s greatness
Leonard Floyd – a former 1st round pick who has flashed huge potential every year since 2016. He finished last season strong with five sacks in the final nine games. This doesn’t make up for the fact he’s never played a full season healthy and has never topped 7.5 sacks in a season.
Aaron Lynch – a free agent pickup in 2018. He had a strong start to his career in San Francisco with 12.5 sacks in two seasons. Since then he has 5.5 in three. He’s also missed 21 games with injury including three last year. Now he is dealing with a shoulder problem. So not that productive to begin with and injury-prone too.
Isaiah Irving – a hard-working former undrafted free agent. He flashes a lot in the preseason but has one sack in 20 career regular season appearances.
Kylie Fitts – a 6th round pick in 2018, he made some nice plays in the preseason but clearly has issues with strength and gap discipline. He failed to register a sack in six games as a rookie.
Mathieu Betts – one of the best pass rushers in Canadian college football history. He signed in Chicago as a rookie free agent but has failed to distinguish himself in training camp or the preseason thus far.
Chuck Harris – an alum of Mack’s alma mater at Buffalo. He had a decent career there and seemed to have intriguing physical traits worth exploring. None of which have manifested on the field yet.
Seeing this, it’s hard to understand how the Bears feel comfortable.
The Bears are fortunate in that they have a dominant defensive line to help offset some of this. Akiem Hicks is dominant. Bilal Nichols and Roy Robertson-Harris have pass rush prowess as well. Along with the blitzing capabilities of Roquan Smith, this enabled the pass rush to thrive last year. The problem is of the 20.5 sacks they posted as a group, Mack had 12.5 of them.
People are asking how this defense could possibly be better than it was in 2018. The answer to that is simple. They can find more guys who can bring heat off the edge. Right now they don’t have nearly enough.