Chad Wheeler was only playing his third game with the Giants last December when he was tasked with stopping Khalil Mack in Oakland.
Forced to return to action because of injuries on the line of attack, the unnamed rookie of Southern Cal, did not surprise to stop, could not stop one of the best rushers of the NFL. Wheeler allowed Mack to sack Geno Smith and force a fumble in the Giants' first game with Eli Manning on the bench.
On Sunday, about a year from their previous game, Wheeler has a new chance against Mack, who now leads a powerful Bears defense after his great exchange with Oakland before the season.
And this time, Wheeler said he felt more comfortable in that position – and the Giants will no doubt see another test for the second-year right-back who took over from Ereck Flowers.
"It's a challenge," Wheeler said Wednesday. "Khalil Mack is a good player. Obviously, you have to bring your game "A". "
He intends to watch more films from last year's game, when Mack lined up almost exclusively against Wheeler. This time, Mack moves further across the Chicago defense – fourth overall in the NFL – with Wheeler and Nate Solder both expected to face the All-Pro.
Pat Shurmur said that he hoped Wheeler and that the rest of the line was up to it.
"I think it has evolved throughout the season and has improved every week," said the head coach. "He's with this group of guys who have played their best three games in the last three weeks, against very good opponents. Let's not forget the [defensive] line we just faced [in Philadelphia] was another challenge … hard to block. I thought he was good and that he had pretty well played for the most part. "
The Eagles, however, are not threatened, unlike Mack, who said rookie Saquon Barkley was probably "the best defensive player in the league."
"The Bears defense obviously has good players and Mack stands out," said Eli Manning. "You must have a plan to prevent it from taking over."
Manning compared Mack's disruption to Demarcus Ware and Terrell Suggs.
The last time Wheeler was put in a position like this came in a week 3 win over the Texans. The Giants won the match – their first of the year – but Watt burned Wheeler and the offensive line for three sacks.
He thinks he is better off later in the season.
"Of course, you gain a little confidence [during the season]but it would be better if we won a few games to move forward, "said Wheeler.
There have not been many of those this season for the Giants, so we can already focus on the future.
"I think it has evolved throughout the year," said Shurmur. "He really took advantage of all the reps and the playing time that he got."
The test continues Sunday against Mack, whom Wheeler described as "relentless".
"It has an internal drive that is sometimes unmatched," said Wheeler. "Then you have to bring it."
Solder, on the other side of the line, said he liked what he had seen from Wheeler, but the real exam will take place on Sunday.
"He studies and does the things he has to do," said Solder. "Then you have to perform."