Are the Raiders getting the last laugh on the Khalil Mack trade?

Are the Raiders getting the last laugh on the Khalil Mack trade?

The Bears were crowned instant winners of the Khalil Mack trade when they acquired the future Hall of Fame pass-rusher from the Oakland Raiders for multiple first-round picks (and more) prior to the start of last season. In fact, the Raiders became the butt of all football jokes for their blasphemous approach to Mack and for doing the unthinkable: trading the league's best sack artist.

But is the joke really on the Bears?

Sure, Chicago enjoyed a pretty miraculous ride in 2018, one the came a Cody Parkey kick away from advancing to the divisional round of the NFC playoffs. But it's been a steady decline since then. Midway through the 2019 season, the Bears are 3-5 while the Raiders, after defeating the Chargers in Week 11's Thursday Night Football, stand at 5-4.

If you watched the game Thursday night, you witnessed this year's likely offensive rookie of the year, Josh Jacobs, seal the win for Oakland on an 18-yard touchdown run. Jacobs, who's now run for 811 yards and seven touchdowns, was the player the Raiders picked with the selection the Bears sent to Oakland for Mack.

Jacobs' season is impressive by any measure, especially for a rookie. But compare his stats to the Bears' ground game, and it becomes even more shocking just how much value Oakland got in that trade. Jacobs has more yards, yards per carry, yards after contact and rushing touchdowns than the entire Bears offense. 

Oakland has it's building block on offense thanks to the Mack deal. 

Meanwhile, the Bears' offense is struggling to find its identity. It doesn't appear like the roster has a franchise quarterback and with no first-round pick in 2020 (it, too, was sent to the Raiders), where will it find one? In fact, Oakland may end up securing that franchise quarterback (if they aren't sold on Derek Carr) with the Bears' first-round pick this April. At this rate, it could end up being a top-five selection. It will be a vicious slap in the face to general manager Ryan Pace if the Mack trade backfires like that. 

Hindsight is 20/20 and it's easy to say now, after 1 1/2 seasons, that maybe the Bears got the short end of the Mack deal. But it's still too soon to say. What if the Raiders select a complete bust in the 2020 draft and Mack leads the league in sacks en route to a Bears' Super Bowl run next year? Neither scenario is outside the realm of possibility. Chicago's roster is that close; it just needs a quarterback.

Consider this, too: The Bears were lauded for robbing the Raiders of a second-round pick on top of Mack when the deal was announced. But how does that second-rounder look now? Instead of being one of the first 10 picks on Day 2, the Raiders are trending toward a competitive December that could (even if it's a longshot) see them qualify for a wild card spot. If that happens, the Bears will go from acquiring a pick that was supposed to be in the top 40 to something much later in the second round. That hurts.

Next season will decide the real winner of this trade. But eight games into 2019, the Raiders are slowly flipping the narrative and looking like they could come out on top.

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Bears tap into Utah's defense in latest 3-round NFL mock draft

Bears tap into Utah's defense in latest 3-round NFL mock draft

The 2019 college football regular season is over, which means the 2020 NFL draft season is right around the corner. Underclassmen are declaring by the day, all-star rosters are filling out and, of course, mock drafts are being published.

The really unique thing about the Bears in 2019 is how fluid their likely NFL draft needs have been. A few weeks ago, quarterback would've topped the list. Now? Not so much. Tight end, a position that's been non-existent in Chicago's offense all year, suddenly has two players (J.P. Holtz and Jesper Horsted) who've garnered some excitement.

Seasons like this year make trying to pinpoint which direction GM Ryan Pace will go in April's draft extremely challenging. According to the Draft Wire's latest three-round mock draft, the Bears will grab help for the secondary and offensive line in Round 2.

Their first selection (as of the start of Week 15) comes at No. 45 overall from the Raiders. Chicago uses that pick on Utah cornerback, Jaylon Johnson.

It's hard to argue this projection. The Bears may have a bigger need at cornerback by the time the draft rolls around than they do right now if they decide it's time to part ways with veteran starter Prince Amukamara. Chicago needs to make some difficult salary-cap decisions this offseason, and moving on from Amukamara would free up roughly $9 million in cap space. 

Johnson (6-0, 190) will be part of the second wave of cornerbacks to get drafted this year. He isn't a first-round talent, and barring an elite showing at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine, he should be available in the middle portion of the second round.

The Bears land offensive line help at No. 50 overall in this mock draft via Tennessee's Trey Smith.

A former five-star recruit, Smith's talent is undeniable. It's first-round worthy. His medicals, however, are not.

After dealing with blood clots in his lungs in 2018, Smith returned to action this season and was once again a dominant force. He projects as an interior player in the NFL and would be an ideal target for a Bears team that needs to add more talent at guard in their effort to replace longtime starter, Kyle Long.

Smith's medical history is likely to push him into Day 3, however, at which point he'll qualify as one of this year's best value selections.

Sunday is Matt Nagy's chance to prove the Bears' changes are for real

Sunday is Matt Nagy's chance to prove the Bears' changes are for real

Matt Nagy thinks about the Packers a lot. 

He thinks about his first career game as an NFL head coach, at Lambeau Field, and how he’ll “never forget that day, that game, for so many different reasons.” 

He thinks about his first NFC North title, which was clinched when Eddie Jackson intercepted Aaron Rodgers in the end zone, avenging the season’s earlier loss.

And he thinks about Week 1 of this season, when millions of eyes tuned in on Opening Night to watch a supposed Super Bowl contender score three points, at home, in a loss to the Packers. 

“I try not to remember too much of that,” he said. “That was a rough one.”  

It just so happens that, this week, everyone else is thinking about the Packers too. On the surface level, it’s the 200th meeting in one the league’s most storied rivalries, and a pivotal game in this year’s race for the second Wild Card spot. There’s Aaron Rodgers, who Nagy called, “competitive as hell.” There’s a talented-and-maybe-underperforming defense, with Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith on the edges creating matchup nightmares for an offensive line that’s undergone more change than anyone. 

“We knew what kind of players they were,” he added. “They’re not unknown anymore.” 

If you wanted to get esoteric, there’s a great redemption narrative to Sunday’s game too. The Packers came into Chicago and exposed the Bears’ starters – who, you’ll remember, sat out the preseason. Things would get worse – so much worse – but the book was out on Nagy’s Bears, and it took them three months to recover. 

“I just feel like we’re kind of in a rhythm now,” Mitch Trubisky said. “We’re a different team. There were some things that we had to go through in the first game and the beginning of the season that just didn’t go our way, and there’s things we definitely learned from as an offense. I just feel like we have a new-found identity of what we want to do and everybody is really locked into what they have to do within their job description on the offense.” 

Things have been different than Week 1, even if you couldn’t say that until Week 12. Nagy has admittedly found a better rhythm as a play-caller, and many of the issues that plagued the Bears in Week 1 haven’t been an issue lately. The tight end room is producing, they’re shifting through personnel groupings less, and the run game has stabilized – all vital components of the offense that best suits the 2019 Bears. It’s not what Nagy envisioned, but 202 ended up being formative in ways he never expected. 

“I feel like a better coach going through this for the players, for my coaches and just the way we communicate,” he said. “The honesty, the belief in one another; going through this is important and it'll help me in the long run, to be able to handle these type of situations when they arise again.”

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