By ANDREW SELIGMAN, AP Sports Writer
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was obviously thrilled when he found out about the trade for two-time All-Pro Khalil Mack last weekend.
Fangio is eager to work with Mack after the Bears pulled off a blockbuster deal with Oakland on Saturday, jolting a franchise with four straight last-place finishes.
The trade capped a busy offseason that saw the Bears mostly load up around quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Fangio now has one of the best pass rushers in the NFL leading an already solid defense, not a bad consolation after he got passed over for the head coaching job in favor of Matt Nagy.
The Bears suddenly seem like contenders for a playoff spot. But Fangio wasn’t about to plan any parades.
He has plenty to do this week, working in a new superstar while scheming to face Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in a primetime opener at Lambeau Field on Sunday night. It’s not clear how much Mack will play, though he obviously figures to give the defense a huge boost whenever he steps on the field.
“Well, I would say (Mack) could be a major help to us,” Fangio said. “Any time you get a player of his ability it can do nothing but help make you better, helps make the players around him better, but he’s been the same player in Oakland throughout his career, very well decorated and a lot of honors that he deserved and Oakland was never better than mid-20s in defense, so one guy doesn’t make a whole unit, as pretty evident by that.”
The Raiders ranked in the 20s on defense in each of Mack’s four seasons. But he’s joining a unit that was 10th overall last year.
Now, the Bears are adding a player with 40½ sacks, and nine forced fumbles in his four seasons.
Mack also leads all players with 185½ quarterback pressures and ranks second with 68 tackles for loss since entering the league, according to SportRadar.
It’s not hard for Fangio to envision more opportunities for Leonard Floyd on the opposite edge with opponents keying on Mack. He sees the same for the inside linebackers and the defensive backs, with quarterbacks under more pressure.
“It’s a chain reaction, a domino effect and hopefully, that’s what we’ll see,” Fangio said.
The question is how soon.
Mack sat out the entire offseason and preseason with Oakland trying to get a long-term extension rather than play under the final year of his rookie contract. He wound up getting a six-year, $141 million extension that guarantees him $90 million and makes him the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history.
“I think for Khalil and us in general it’s just going to be knowing where he’s at mentally with Vic’s system and then understanding where he is physically and matching the two together,” Nagy said. “We’re not going to know really until we get into it and we just kind of gauge it.”
Like Mack, rookie inside linebacker Roquan Smith is playing catch-up. The No. 8 overall draft pick held out the first three weeks of training camp before agreeing to a four-year contract that guarantees him $18.5 million. He has dealt with a tight left hamstring the past three weeks. And Floyd is getting used to playing with a casted club on his broken right hand.
“These guys are very talented,” Mack said. “You see the skillsets that they have. We’re only trying to get better. That’s the only thing I’m asking from the group, that we all get better and hold each other accountable.
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