Pernell McPhee’s 2017 season got off to an inauspicious start, but things are starting to turn in his favor.
After starting training camp on the preseason PUP list and undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery that caused him to miss the entire preseason, McPhee was surprisingly removed from the list and placed onto the 53-man roster on Saturday. But that’s just where the good news starts for the Chicago Bears and their talented outside linebacker.
GM Ryan Pace believes this is the best McPhee has felt since he was on the Baltimore Ravens. Head coach John Fox concurs, adding McPhee is at an ideal combination where he is at his lowest weight, but also at his peak physical strength. It’s the kind of combination that ideally makes him the kind of force capable of jump-starting the dominant pass rush he promised during OTAs. All in all, it sounds like McPhee will be ready to give it a go when the regular season starts Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons. And if the Bears have any intentions in pulling off a season-opening upset, they’ll need a healthy McPhee pressuring quarterback Matt Ryan.
McPhee’s career with the Bears started off with a bang in 2015, as he picked up five sacks in the first seven games. Production has tapered off since then, however, as he’s recorded just five sacks in his next 16 games. Overall, McPhee has missed nine games in two years with the Bears, as troublesome and nagging knee injuries have held him back from reaching his full potential. Perhaps a newly found clean bill of health will help McPhee reach new heights.
If you’ll recall, McPhee signed with the Bears after picking up 7.5 sacks in 16 games with the Ravens in 2014. And that looked like he was just starting to scratch the surface of his playmaking ability, playing in just 47.8 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. As a point of comparison, Terrell Suggs scooped up 12 sacks in 16 games, but played 334 more snaps than McPhee. So from the Bears’ perspective, allotting more snaps for McPhee could have led to an uptick in production. Unfortunately, that’s not how it has worked out in his first two seasons.
McPhee’s health and production will be key to whether or not the Bears’ defense is successful in 2017. A healthy McPhee and Leonard Floyd on the outside, coupled with inside linebackers Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan give the Bears a pretty fearsome foursome at linebacker. If that group can stay healthy, teaming with a defensive line with motivated free-agent-to-be Akiem Hicks and a healthy Eddie Goldman could make the Bears’ front seven one of the game’s best – even if Pro Football Focus doesn’t necessarily see it that way.