Chargers edge rusher Khalil Mack isn’t quite the game-wrecker he was in his prime, but he’s still a dangerous pass rusher, especially against a vulnerable offense.
Mack has seven sacks this season, but six of them came in one game against the Raiders, who were playing journeyman right tackle Jermaine Eluemunor and rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell.
It remains to be seen just how well-equipped the Bears are to avoid the Raiders’ fate against Mack. Right tackle Darnell Wright is a rookie, but he’s talented (the 10th overall pick of the 2023 draft) and has lived up to expectations so far.
‘‘I’m excited,’’ Wright said. ‘‘I feel I’ve [faced] a lot of really good pass rushers. He’s a different type of pass rusher maybe than I’ve had, but it’s gonna be fun. Hopefully I can be up to the challenge. It’s definitely going to be a good battle.’’
Wright played through a shoulder injury last week against the Raiders and Maxx Crosby (one sack), but he practiced in full Friday and said he felt better this week than he did last week.
With four-time Pro Bowl edge rusher Joey Bosa on the other side, the Bears will have their hands full. Larry Borom generally has been effective in five starts in place of injured left tackle Braxton Jones (neck), but he is vulnerable to players the caliber of Mack and Bosa. In any scenario, rookie quarterback Tyson Bagent’s ability to get rid of the ball quickly will be a key factor.
The Bears’ run defense has keyed an overall defensive resurgence in the last three games, allowing only 114 yards on 46 carries with no touchdowns.
In shutting down the Commanders (10 carries for 29 yards), Vikings (22 for 46) and Raiders (14 for 39), the Bears have improved from 18th in rushing yards allowed and 10th in yards per carry allowed to fifth and second in those categories.
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Bagent won his first start in the NFL last Sunday with a well-executed dink-and-dunk game against the Raiders. The Chargers present more opportunities for bigger plays, given that they are 32nd (last) in the NFL in pass defense and have allowed a league-high seven plays of 45 yards or more. But the last time the Chargers faced a rookie quarterback, they sacked O’Connell seven times.
Even if coordinator Luke Getsy plays it as conservatively as he did last week, Bagent’s ability to avoid sacks and turnovers will be tested in this one.
Bagent will face different challenges in his second start than he did in his first. He’s on the road this time, which could complicate the operation of the offense literally from the snap. And this will be his first regular-season game with a previous game on tape. It will be interesting to see how Chargers coach Brandon Staley responds — and how Getsy responds to that response.