Joniak: Khalil Mack Itching To Return To Action

Mack has missed the last two games with an ankle injury.

November 08, 2018 - 5:10 pm
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LAKE FOREST (WBBM Newsradio) -- The Bears (5-3) are preparing to host the Lions (3-5) on Sunday. Here are the notes and observations of the day from Thursday.

First impression

Itching to get back on the field after missing two games with an ankle injury, outside linebacker Khalil Mack appears to be on track for a return against the Lions. Still, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio suggested there's caution to be had.

"No sure yet," Fangio said of Mack's status before practice Thursday. "Obviously he’s closer than he was. He had a nice practice yesterday. I think today’s practice will be a good indicator after pushing himself a little bit yesterday."

Mack’s readiness is tied to how his bum ankle handles the rigors of full speed and contact, Fangio said.

"He’s not where he needs to be or where we want him to be, but he’s certainly prepared enough to go out there and play if his ankle will let him," Fangio said.

Second thought

Although the Lions permitted 10 sacks in a loss to the Vikings last week, Fangio believes that may be an outlier. Prior to that game, Detroit's pass protection for quarterback Matthew Stafford was among the NFL’s best.

"They really had not given up many prior to that," Fangio said. "It’s probably a little bit of an anomaly there. The Vikings didn’t do anything really special to get him other than they did a really good job rushing their four guys. I don’t see it being a trend for them, but we’ll see."

As for the Bears' pass rush, Fangio wants to see third-year outside linebacker Leonard Floyd be more decisive early in his rush by using his speed and athleticism to gain an advantage on blockers early. Floyd doesn't have a sack yet this season.

Third degree

Running back Jordan Howard is on a three-game, four-touchdown streak after scoring just one touchdown in the first five weeks of the season. His powerful run to the end zone in Buffalo including trucking Bills safety Jordan Poyer. It was the kind of finishing run that coach Matt Nagy seeks from this backs.

"I liked seeing that," Nagy said. "We’ve been talking about that, and I know that he has it in him and to see him do that in a game is pretty neat."

Howard is averaging 2.67 yards after contact, per Pro Football Focus. That's up from his 2.52 mark last season but down from his 2.98 mark in his rookie campaign of 2016.

"He needs to run like a power back," offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich said. "He has the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. You know all those dimensions are present, and we’re going to continue to ride him in all those ways."

The Lions' rushing defense is ranked 30th in the league, giving up 142.5 yards per game. The Jets, 49ers, Cowboys and Seahawks all piled up better than 165 yards on the ground against the Lions.

The addition of heavy-duty defensive tackle Damon "Snacks" Harrison hasn't really led to the Lions putting a dent into those ugly numbers. He has played in two games and has a sack and three tackles for loss, but the Lions gave up 176 yards rushing to the Seahawks and then 128 to the Vikings last week. 

Fourth-and-short

Bears outside linebacker Aaron Lynch played with a fiery edge in Buffalo. He nearly had several sacks, settling for one. While Fangio wasn't at all happy with Lynch's unsportsmanlike penalty on his post-sack celebration, he admitted Lynch is more mature and is a better player than he was when Fangio coached him in San Francisco.

Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.​