The following is the seventh of eight position reviews of the Bears' 2019 season.
Star outside linebacker Khalil Mack earned Pro Bowl honors in 2019 for the second time in as many seasons with the Bears.
The 6-3, 269-pounder led the Bears with 8.5 sacks, eight tackles-for-loss, five forced fumbles and 14 quarterback hits. In 2018, Mack recorded 12.5 sacks, 10 tackles-for-loss, six forced fumbles and 18 quarterback hits.
While Mack's production declined this season, he remained a game-changing force on the Bears defense.
"Obviously a premier defensive player," general manager Ryan Pace said Dec. 31 at his end-of-season press conference. "I think you can definitely tell the attention that our opponents focus on him. That's a big part of it. Khalil wants more production. We know that it's there.
"There are so many things that he does that I think go a little unnoticed—the way he plays the run, the attention the opponents have to put upon him. When you look at our whole team, we all want to play better and Khalil wants to play better. He knows he can play better. But trust me, we're very fortunate to have Khalil Mack on our team."
Starting opposite Mack at outside linebacker, Leonard Floyd registered 27 tackles, three sacks, three tackles-for-loss and 12 quarterback hits in 2019. Two of Floyd's three sacks came in the season opener against the Packers.
"We're happy with Leonard," Pace said. "I know the stats don't always say that, but Leonard does a lot of things that I think maybe go a little undervalued—the versatility that he provides, the things he can do in coverage.
"Would we like more production from him? Yeah. Would he like that? Yeah. But there are a lot of things that he does that we like … We like Leonard. We're glad he's here. Like a lot of our players, does he want to play better? Yeah. Can he play better? Yeah, and we'll see going forward."
The Bears lost both of their starting inside linebackers, Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith, to injuries in 2019, but replacements Nick Kwiatkoski and Kevin Pierre-Louis performed well when called upon.
Trevathan sustained a season-ending elbow injury in the ninth game of the season. At the time, he was leading the Bears with 70 tackles. Smith missed the final three games with a torn pectoral muscle.
In his fourth season with the Bears, Kwiatkoski emerged as one of the defense's top players, recording 68 tackles, three sacks and eight tackles-for-loss.
When Smith was unable to play in a Week 4 game against the Vikings, Kwiatkoski stepped in and helped lead the Bears to a 16-6 win. The 2016 fourth-round pick topped the defense with 10 tackles while also registering one sack, one forced fumble and two tackles-for-loss.
Six weeks later, Kwiatkoski replaced an injured Trevathan and recorded his first career interception along with 10 tackles, one sack and two tackles-for-loss in the Bears' 20-13 victory over the Lions.
In the season finale in Minnesota, Kwiatkoski dropped Vikings running back Mike Boone in the end zone for a safety, helping the Bears record a 21-19 win.
Asked during the season what accounted for Kwiatkoski's success, defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said: "It's preparation. We ask them all to come in and prepare like starters and 'Kwit' is a guy that does that. He's kind of the poster child for that guy."
Pierre-Louis, meanwhile, compiled 32 tackles, one interception and two tackles-for-loss while appearing in 14 games with three starts. Starting the final three contests in place of Smith, Pierre-Louis amassed 23 tackles.
Flip through all of ChicagoBears.com's best photos of LB Khalil Mack from the 2019 season.