Now entering his eighth season as a pro, Chicago marks Pennel’s fourth NFL club to date, following stints with the Chiefs (2019-20), New York Jets (2017-18) and Green Bay Packers (2014-2016).
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Pennel to Replace Bears’ Stalwart Following Offseason Absence?
In 22 games in Kansas City, Pennel notched 53 combined tackles and 1.0 sack and was a key presence during the Chiefs’ 2019 Super Bowl run, starting two of three postseason contests that year. General manager Brett Veach and the Chiefs’ front office elected to move on from the 30-year-old Pennel after its two-year partnership, instead electing to make a bigger offseason splash up the middle in the form of ex-Seattle Seahawks standout Jarran Reed.
Reed’s arrival will allow Pro Bowler Chris Jones to spend more time on the edge in 2021, in addition to providing another veteran presence in a relatively young defensive tackle room featuring Derrick Nnadi, Tershawn Wharton, Khalen Saunders and Tyler Clark.
As for Pennel, the Kansas native is expected to serve as a depth piece for the Bears heading into training camp in July. However, with Eddie Goldman’s “unexcused” absence from the team’s mandatory minicamp last week, per head coach Matt Nagy, retirement rumors have begun to swirl around the five-year starting nose tackle. The former second-round pick opted out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so any additional missed offseason work could leave Goldman further behind the eight-ball, potentially opening the door for more opportunities for Pennel.
The Chiefs and Bears are not slated to face off in 2021, but should he make Chicago’s roster, Pennel could still have a chance to play against one of his former teams, the Packers, at least twice this season.
Frank Clark Reveals Sack Goal for 2021
One of Pennel’s linemates for the last two seasons, defensive end Frank Clark, is looking to rebound from his lowest sack total (6.0) last season since his rookie year (3.0) with the Seahawks in 2013. Speaking to the media during Kansas City’s three-day mandatory minicamp, Clark elaborated on one of his primary goals for 2021.
“It’s always to get 10-plus [sacks]. That’s always my goal,” Clark told reporters during his June 15 virtual press conference. “You get 15, that’s even better. You get 20, you’re in a whole different league — you talking defensive MVP talks. My goals, I always set them high. If I’m not looking at myself and competing with these quarterbacks in the NFL and chasing MVP numbers and competing with Aaron Donald as a reigning defensive MVP, I’d be a fool.”
With Jones kicking out to defensive end on a more consistent basis and Reed, Clark’s former Seahawks teammate of three years, solidifying the middle of the defense, the seventh-year pass rusher will look to replicate his career-best 2018 campaign in Seattle. Working alongside Reed, who posted a career-high 10.5 sacks that year himself, Clark paced his former club in quarterback takedowns with 13.5.
In his two seasons under Steve Spagnuolo in Kansas City, Clark ranks second on the team in combined sacks (14.0) and quarterback hits (29), trailing only Jones (16.5 and 48) since the start of 2019.
Chris Licata is an NFL contributor covering the Kansas City Chiefs from enemy territory in Denver, Colorado. Follow him on Twitter @Chris__Licata or join the Heavy on Chiefs Facebook community for the latest out of Chiefs Kingdom!