The first 30 minutes that Khalil Mack was in a Chicago Bears’ uniform didn’t very look good for Jon Gruden, the Raiders or their trade; Mack, one of the scariest defensive players in the league, for four draft picks including two in the first round.
He had a strip and a fumble recovery, and intercepted a pass that he returned for a touchdown. He did Khalil Mack things. He had probably one of the best halves of football that a defensive end has had in the past 30 years.
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That’s the reason the Raiders were even entertaining paying someone $100 million to rush the passer. You find yourself in awe of the guy every time he steps out on the on field. He has the ability to do things like that.
But what was interesting about the whole thing, on the last play of the game, Nick Perry had a sack-fumble on Mitchell Trubisky, and Nick Perry makes about $6 million a year. It’s interesting how all of that works out. You can see Khalil’s value to the Chicago Bears — it’s priceless. They were in position with Trubisky still on his rookie deal, to pay a player like that and you don’t have any issues with it at all.
But when you get into that range — Mack signed a six-year deal worth $141 million, with $90 million guaranteed, with the Bears after the trade — and you really look at the numbers and the history, the top guys, the guys that are making that kind of money, are quarterbacks.
The other guys, they affect the game, but they don’t affect the game as much.
Aaron Rodgers came back in, and we know the contract that he signed with the Green Bay Packers. The Packers have some other players on their team making some good money — Davante Adams, for one. But it’s all about Rodgers. When he came back in the game, that great first half by Mack was pretty much just voided out by the greatness of a quarterback playing at a high level.
Mack had one of the greatest games ever by a defensive end and the Bears still lost. Make had a great year last year with the Raiders. He played every game, nearly every snap, yet they went 6-10.
You have to look at it from that perspective.
You can almost justify the trade, even though it’s really hard. Nobody, Derek Carr included, wanted Mack to play for the Bears. Mack is one of Derek’s best friends in the world. I don’t think Mack wanted to play for the Bears, I really don’t. I think he wanted to be a Raider, but it didn’t happen, for whatever reason. Some of the reasons, we might never know. But you can understand why the Raiders did it.
The Raiders didn’t do much for the optics of that deal, either, losing to the Rams.
But I don’t think Gruden was crazy in his thought process. When I was up there in camp with the NFL Network, he said to us, ”We weren’t a very good defense with Khalil.” I don’t think he was saying that as a slight to Mack, I just think that they weren’t a very good defense. I think that’s what he meant.
I think they can be a better defense than last year. Obviously, they would love to have Mack. But I still think this team will end up having more sacks and more interceptions than last year. I think they’ll get better on defense.
It’s almost crazy to say that because Mack is not there. But from a defensive coordinator standpoint, if you look at what Paul Guenther has done at Jacksonville and at Cincinnati, they’ve always been teams that have been difficult. They’re opportunistic. They’re going to find ways to create turnovers. They’re going to give their offense short fields.
I think the Raiders’ secondary is better. I think their linebacker corps is better. I think Bruce Irvin still has a lot. Arden Key is going to be a good player.
They have a chance to be a better defense.
The Raiders played a very good football team and Mack had an outstanding night the night before, so it was almost a perfect storm.
The hard part about facing a team like the Rams, they kind of put you on your heels as a defensive coordinator because they do so many things with formations and fly sweeps and screens, and then Todd Gurley is just an incredible back.
You can’t really risk it all and go after the quarterback when you have so many things to worry about from a schematic standpoint.
That kind of hurt the Raiders a little, as far as being able to put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. But not every team is going to have the same skill set as the Rams, so they’ll be able to get more aggressive as the year goes on.
David Carr is a former Fresno State quarterback, NFL No. 1 draft pick and Super Bowl champion. Now he’s an analyst for the NFL Network and writing a weekly column in collaboration with The Bee’s Robert Kuwada. The column is sponsored by Valley Children’s Hospital.
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