Khalil Mack's recent disappearance says more about the Bears' defense than it says about his own play

Khalil Mack's recent disappearance says more about the Bears' defense than it says about his own play

Just in case there are still Bears fans out who are skeptical about Murphy’s Law (Mercury doesn’t even go into retrograde until February!), a significant portion of Chuck Pagano’s press conference on Thursday afternoon was spent talking about how Khalil Mack didn’t show up in the box score against the Rams. 

“You guys watch the game, right? You saw the game plan and how they attacked us,” the Bears’ defensive coordinator said. “We understand how they are attacking him and how they’re taking care of him. How they’re tending to him. They were going to come out and try to run the football and keep it third and manageable.

“A lot of 3rd-and-1, 3rd-and-2, 3rd-and-3. Never really any opportunities other than four times to really rush the passer for anybody, not only him but for our defense. So, just because he doesn’t show on [the stat sheet] doesn’t mean he’s not doing his job.”

It’s been a frustrating six weeks for Mack, who has one sack since the Bears’ Week 4 win over Minnesota. Per Pro Football Focus, here are Mack’s Pass Rushing grades – and where they rank – during that stretch: 

Week 5: 48.4 (113)
Week 7: 52.3 (92
Week 8: 71.1 (23
Week 9: 55.6 (80
Week 10: 63.8 (34)
Week 11: 59.4 (51

“You see that with some of the production and you see that with a lot of superstars,” Matt Nagy said on Monday. “You can go back to last year with Aaron Donald, when he played us, there wasn’t any. Sometimes that happens, but it opens it up for other guys. He was a part of that first play of the game with the fumble. He was right in there with Eddie Jackson, ripping that ball out. Khalil, he doesn’t have to change anything he’s doing.” 

Pagano admitted that in theory, teams throwing two or three guys on Mack every single play should open up plenty of opportunities for other players but added that, “when that happens, [guys] have to win those matchups.” Not having Akiem Hicks, whose absence matches the timing of Macks' drop in box score production pretty closely, certainly hasn't helped. And now they'll be without Danny Trevathan – cough, Murphy's Law – for the majority of these final six weeks.

"Yeah, you could say because he’s not in there, you know, they don’t have to do this, that or the other to the guys that are in there, but you know, we got good football players in there," Pagano said. "You don’t want to be without anybody. We don’t want to be without Akiem, we don’t want to be without Danny. But that’s where we’re at."

Mack hasn’t had less than 10 sacks since his rookie season in 2014 (4), and he currently ranks 34th in sacks (5.5). Even still, PFF has him ranked as the eighth-best pass-rusher (86.0) and gave him the fourth-best overall defensive grade (89.4). The traditional stats obviously haven’t been there, but neither Nagy or Pagano has seen that frustration creep in and affect his attitude, or that infamous work ethic. 

“Khalil is a unique guy,” Pagano added. “He’s a great person, he’s a great pro, he comes to work every single day, even though this is happening from the first snap to the last snap. He’s a hard-charger. He just continues to go out there and grind and do what he has to do for this football team. I think the biggest thing for him is he wants to win.” 

Should the Bears trade for this Ryan Pace player?

Should the Bears trade for this Ryan Pace player?

Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks wants out of L.A. It's no secret the Rams are trying to trade him, and he expressed his desire to be traded on Twitter on Friday.

The Bears have a need in their offense for a speed wide receiver, and Cooks has been one of the most explosive weapons at the position throughout his career.

Prior to last season's offensive meltdown in Los Angeles, Cooks recorded four-straight 1,000-yard seasons and averaged more than 15 yards per catch in three of those years. He's still only 26 years old and has plenty of juice left in his legs to offer his next team a similar level of production; he would be a dynamic complement to Allen Robinson and would round out Chicago's wide receiver corps.

And here's the thing: we know Ryan Pace loves his former Saints. He just rewarded Jimmy Graham with a two-year, $16 million contract despite a market that likely wouldn't have valued his services anywhere near that amount.

But Graham was one of Pace's guys from his days in New Orleans, and so is Cooks.

The Saints traded a first- and third-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft to move up for Cooks (they moved from No. 27 to No. 20 to select him). Pace was New Orleans' Director of Player Personnel at the time; his voice was a powerful one in the decision to acquire Cooks.

The biggest impediment to making a move for Cooks is his contract. He signed a five-year, $81 million deal with the Rams in 2018 and has a $16.8 million cap hit in 2020. With Robinson looking to break the bank on a contract extension in the coming weeks, it's highly unlikely the Bears will commit that much money to the wide receiver position. Any trade will have to include some kind of restructured contract or an agreement that the Rams carry a significant portion of Cooks' cap hit.

There's also the issue of compensation that the Bears could send to Los Angeles for a player as dynamic as Cooks. A trade would require at least one of Chicago's second-round picks. Maybe that's all it will take, but the Rams would be justified asking for more.

The dollars have to make sense and the compensation has to be appealing enough to get a deal done. But there's no doubt Pace is at least researching his options.

Cooks, unlike Graham, would be one of Pace's guys who Bears fans would welcome with open arms.

Bears land two potential starters in latest mock draft

Bears land two potential starters in latest mock draft

The 2020 NFL draft is less than four weeks away and now that the first wave of free agency is over, team needs have begun to crystallize.

For the Chicago Bears, that means youth at tight end and a starting-quality safety will be high on their draft wish list. According to Chad Reuter's latest 2020 mock draft, the Bears check both boxes with potential starters in the second round.

At pick No. 43, Chicago adds LSU safety Grant Delpit, who prior to the 2019 college football season was considered by most draft analysts to be the most gifted defensive player not named Chase Young.

Delpit's final season with the Tigers wasn't the best for his draft stock. He lacked the splash plays that made him a household name last season, but he still displayed the kind of aggressive and fearless style that would make him a strong complement next to Eddie Jackson, who the Bears want to get back to playing centerfield. Delpit will slide to the second round because he's an inconsistent finisher, but he'd offer great value for a Bears defense that needs an aggressive run defender on its third level.

At No. 50, the Bears snag a potential starter at tight end in Purdue's Brycen Hopkins

Hopkins is a wide receiver in a tight end's body; he's everything Chicago's offense has been missing. Regardless of who wins the team's quarterback competition this summer, a player like Hopkins has the kind of playmaking ability to instantly become one of the early reads in the offense's passing game. 

With veterans Jimmy Graham and Trey Burton already on the roster, a player like Hopkins could be eased into the lineup with the expectation that he'd eventually become the primary receiving option at the position by the end of his rookie season.

Not a bad second-round haul. It's critically important that Ryan Pace hits on his second-rounders, too. The Bears' next pick doesn't occur until the fifth round, which is usually when special teams players and practice squad candidates are added.