EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Want to get the New York Giants’ attention this week? Just mention Chicago Bears linebacker Khalil Mack.
It’s instant respect for one of the leading contenders for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Mack has been a force in his first year with the Bears (8-3). Despite missing two games, he leads the NFL with five forced fumbles and leads the team with eight sacks. That’s gone a long way in helping NFL North-leading Chicago become the fourth-ranked defense.
Rookie running back Saquon Barkley was clearly impressed Wednesday after watching the videotapes of Mack as the Giants (3-8) prepared for Sunday’s game at MetLife Stadium.
“He’s as good as advertised,” Barkley said of Mack. “The only thing I can say is he’s good as advertised. He’s probably the best defensive player in the league. He’s an active player, he’s big, fast, strong. He’s everything you want in an outside linebacker. He’s definitely going to be a challenge this week, but we’ve played great players before and we’ve just got to come out ready to compete and ready to work.”
Mack, traded to the Bears by Oakland on Sept. 1, tends to line up at right defensive end. When that happens, he will go against left tackle Nate Solder, who the Giants signed as a free agent in the offseason.
Solder said Mack has all the attributes. He’s talented, makes plays, has a nose for the ball, flexibility, power and strength. Stopping him will require the line to get a “hat on the hat” and give quarterback Eli Manning time to throw. It also helps the Bears have a lot of good players on defense.
Solder refused to compare Mack to anyone.
“You go out there and you prepare it as best you can for that particular opponent,” he said. “They all have strength and weaknesses. He’s got strengths up through the roof. He’s incredible, and so you do the best you can all week, understanding what they’re all about, how they like to do it and how their defensive coordinator likes to use them. And then when it comes to game day you got to play your best.”
Mack occasionally moves to left end and he would face second-year tackle Chad Wheeler on those plays. Wheeler faced Mack last season when the Giants visited Oakland and Mack came away with a sack, a forced fumble and a recovery.
“He’s just relentless,” Wheeler said. “A great player, he has an internal drive that sometimes I match, so you’ve got to bring it.”
Mack’s big game against the Giants on Dec. 3 came with Eli Manning on the sideline. With the playoffs out of reach, the quarterback was benched by coach Ben McAdoo, who elected to start Geno Smith.
McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese were fired the following day.
Manning said Mack stands out on the Bears’ defense, which has helped the team win five in a row.
“He does a good job getting sacks, causing fumbles, interceptions — he does it all,” the two-time Super Bowl MVP said. “They’re sound all over. They play good football, not giving up many big plays. Teams aren’t scoring a ton on them. They’re creating turnovers. They’re playing good football, so we got to do the same.”
The Giants have struggled on offense this season, with the biggest problem being too many negative plays, whether it be sacks, penalties or tackles for losses. It was the big reason they blew a halftime lead against the Eagles on Sunday.
Barkley said the Giants just have to play their game.
“It’s going to be one on one sometimes and you got to win your one-on-one matchups,” said Barkley, whose 829 yards rushing is fourth in the league. “And yes he’s (Mack) going to make plays and yes the Bears are going to make plays and every team’s going to make plays against you sometimes. But at the end of the day you got to make more plays than them.”
NOTES: TE Evan Engram (hamstring) did not practice Wednesday. … Coach Pat Shurmur is optimistic DE Kerry Wynn (concussion) will be ready after missing last week’s game.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL