New Chargers defender Mack happy to be reunited with Staley
COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — Khalil Mack was watching the television show “Bel-Air” with his fiancéé and son last Thursday when he got a call from his agent that the Chicago Bears were trading him. In a strange coincidence, Mack’s new team is close to the real Bel Air.
Mack met with reporters on Wednesday after his trade to the Los Angeles Chargers became official with the start of the new league year. The Chargers sent a second-round pick this year and a 2023 sixth-round selection to the Bears for one of the league’s top pass rushers and a three-time All-Pro defender.
“It was weird to hear, but having a relationship with coach (Brandon) Staley, it went from bittersweet to excited, knowing who I’m dealing with and how much he truly loves football,” Mack said.
Staley was Mack’s linebacker coach when the Bears acquired Mack from the Raiders during the 2018 preseason. Staley was in Chicago for only one season before going to Denver when Vic Fangio was hired as Broncos coach.
Staley is hoping this reunion with Mack lasts longer.
“I’m excited for him to be around our team and build a team with him (on the roster),” Staley said. “It was an amazing year in Chicago, but that didn’t last long enough. To be able to do it again is very special, and I’m excited about it for sure.”
Mack, who turned 31 on Feb. 22, will be going into his ninth NFL season. He was the fifth overall pick by the Raiders in the 2014 draft and was The Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year in 2016. He was traded to the Bears after a contract dispute.
Chicago opted to clean house after going 6-11 last season. It fired general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy — who were both instrumental in acquiring Mack — replacing them with Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus.
Mack got off to a good start last season with six sacks in seven games before being placed on season-ending injured reserve in November and undergoing foot surgery.
Mack said he didn’t hear from Poles until after his agent, Joel Segal, informed him about the trade. Mack did acknowledge the possibility of being traded entered his mind.
Staley said conversations might have started during the NFL scouting combine two weeks ago and that the deal came together quickly after that.
“The cost was very minimum for a player of his caliber. I think it was excellent,” Staley said. “We know everything about this guy. and what he’s bringing to your team. And, you know, vice versa.”
The Chargers get an established playmaker who can not only rush the passer but effectively stops the run. Last season, Los Angeles was 9-8 but missed the playoffs with losses in three of the final four games.
Staley brought in an attacking 3-4 scheme that made the Rams the top-ranked unit in 2020, but he didn’t get the same results with the Chargers, who were 23rd in total defense and third worst against the run.
The 138.9 yards per game allowed on the ground were the worst by a Chargers defense since 2003.
Mack is the first move in an overhaul of the defense. Los Angeles has also added cornerback J.C. Jackson and defensive linemen Sebastian Jones-Day and Austin Johnson.
“He brings the playmaking ability and style of play that we believe in,” said Staley about Mack. “I don’t think we had enough of that last year, not even close. He’s a dominant, complete defender.”
Mack will be paired with Joey Bosa to form one of the AFC’s top pass-rushing duos, which is critical in a division with Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, Denver’s Russell Wilson, and Las Vegas’ Derek Carr facing LA twice a year.
“I’ve been watching Joey from afar since his rookie year. And that guy has been flying off the ball,” Mack said. “It’s special to see him. I could keep going on and on about this guy. It’s understanding what we’re going to do. It’s a big picture. I just can’t wait.”
Los Angeles also announced Wednesday it agreed to a contract with long snapper Josh Harris.
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