If you're an offensive coordinator in the NFL, this is the last thing you want to hear. Anyone with at least one functional eye knows Khalil Mack is one of the best in football when it comes to taking down opposing quarterbacks, and that's not up for discussion. That said, his 2019 season saw him take a step back in production -- if you can truly call it that -- marking the first time Mack was unable to deliver a double-digit sack tally since his rookie season in 2014. His 8.5 sacks were four fewer than the year prior, but there seems to be a fairly obvious reason why.
It's because teams felt they only needed to account for Mack, and dare others to beat them. The latter rarely happened, for while defensive tackle Nick Williams delivered an admirable six sacks, linebacker Leonard Floyd registered only three in 16 starts -- the lowest mark of his NFL career.
"You can look and say, go back and say, 'How many times was [Mack] doubled, was he tripled?'" defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said of Mack's output in 2019, via the Chicago Sun-Times. "You know, did they leave an extra protector in there? How many times did he get singled? How many of those times did he win?"
As Pagano later pointed out and as anyone who's followed Mack's stellar career knows -- he doesn't view it that way. The three-time first-team All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowler hangs it all on his own shoulders, and he's looking to get back to peak production when the 2020 season gets underway.
"He's training like I have never seen anybody train before," linebackers coach Ted Monachino said. "Motivation is not an issue with Khalil -- never has been. But what I'll tell you is that he has approached this offseason with something to prove, and that's something that I think we all can be encouraged by. I think that that's something that's exciting, when a player of his caliber approaches his work the way he has approached it."
To his credit, Mack was still in the quarterback's face on a regular basis.
Although he had four fewer sacks in 2019 than he did in 2018, he had four more QB hurries (20), the same number of combined tackles (47) and only two fewer QB pressures (45) than one season ago. So even with teams sending waves of blockers in his direction, he's still performed like Mack in every category except for sacks, but it's the latter that has him angry.
"I can't really attribute a lower sack number to one thing or another," Monachino noted. "I just know that going into 2020, that's a high, high priority for all of us -- especially for Khalil. Nobody wants to be better and dominant down-in and down-out than Khalil Mack."
The decision to release Floyd and add Robert Quinn is one that should free up both to dominate off of the edge this coming season, considering Quinn is hot off of a resurgent season with the Dallas Cowboys that saw him lead the team with 11.5 sacks -- the second-highest tally of his career. Quinn took advantage of having DeMarcus Lawrence on the opposite edge in Dallas, and now has an even more dominant Mack in Chicago and, at least on paper, it makes it difficult to fathom opposing coordinators being willing to shade help in one direction or the other.
That could and should spell another monster season for Mack, who is training like a man possessed to make it happen.
"I just think that this is a special guy that has something to prove, and has approached the last several months with a chip on his shoulder," Monachino said. "And I think that's good for everybody."