Bears' Akiem Hicks on Packers' offensive line: 'Those five guys can't block Khalil Mack'

Tom Silverstein
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Newly acquired Chicago Bears player Khalil Mack displays his jersey after speaking to the media  during a news conference Sunday, Sept. 2, 2018, at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, Ill.

GREEN BAY - To say the Chicago Bears are pumped about having Khalil Mack on their team would be like saying they were happy training camp is over.

Uh, yeah.

No one might have been as thrilled as defensive end Akiem Hicks, who led the team in sacks with 8.5 last season and won’t see the number of double-team blocks he once did with Mack on the field.

During a conference call with state reporters Hicks was asked what he knew about the Green Bay Packers’ offensive line, which will have the responsibility of blocking him and Mack.

He didn’t hold back.

“I know those five guys can’t block Khalil Mack,” he said.

It so happened that Mack was sitting a few feet away from him in the training room, so his bravado might have been aimed at teasing his new teammate.

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But Hicks didn’t stop there.

“You know, I really feel like this: They have to put their offensive line together however they do it and put their best product out on the field, but I don’t think their best product can block Khalil Mack,” he said.

And, speaking about right tackle Bryan Bulaga having to block Mack while coming back from a torn ACL, he added, “Well, I think it affects guys when they come back from an injury, especially older guys like Bulaga. But I don’t think he had a chance to block Khalil Mack in the first place.”

When it came time to describe what kind of player the Bears were getting in Mack, who was acquired in a trade from the Oakland Raiders on Saturday, Hicks said he was a household name. No one in the NFL walks around uncertain what his best attributes are.

Hicks gushed about what it means for the Bears' defense to add Mack, who after signing a six-year, $141 million contract, became the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL. The front seven includes Hicks, Mack, Leonard Floyd and rookie Roquan Smith, giving them the potential to be a dominant group.

“I mean once we added Khalil Mack, it just kind of sealed the deal,” Hicks said. “We have great rushers. We have a career All-Pro, Pro Bowl – I mean, what accolade doesn’t he have?

“Then, you got to the other side and you have the young boy, Leonard Floyd, who I’m sure Khalil Mack is going to influence and make better. So overall …”

First-year coach Matt Nagy wasn’t making any predictions about what Mack would do to the Packers’ offensive line, but it was hard for him to hold back his excitement over acquiring a top-five talent.

The Bears gave up two first-round draft picks as part of the trade, but that might be a pittance if Mack has the impact the Bears think he will. Since 2015, he has the second-most sacks in the NFL with 36.5 and he’s only 27 years old.

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The hard part for Nagy will be getting Mack up to speed with Vic Fangio’s defense while at the same time getting him ready to play regular-season snaps. Mack held out during training camp and he’ll practice in pads with the Bears for the first time this week.

When asked if he would have Mack sleep in his pads, Nagy laughed and replied he just might do that.

“Just putting on that helmet for the first time in how long you start getting blisters on your forehead, he'll have to get used to that and putting on the cleats and the pads,” Nagy said. “Luckily for him, he's been doing this for a long time.

“He's been practicing in regards to working out and staying in shape. He's done a good job with that. But, it's not easy. It's not like you can just go out and start playing. So that'll be a challenge for him."

Nagy said he was hopeful Mack would play in the season opener against the Packers on Sunday night at Lambeau Field, but he didn’t say how much if he did play. A good guess would be that Mack would play on third downs only.

That would allow him to focus on doing what he does best, which is rushing the passer.

“We've had him in since he got here the last few days, just trying to get him up to par with some of the stuff that we're doing, and he's been great with that,” Nagy said. “There's so many other things that you've got to take care of when this type of transaction happens in regards to him just getting out there to Chicago and getting settled and dealing with the playbook and just the new environment.

“So. there's a lot going on, but he's doing great with it, our coaches are doing great with it and it's great to have him."

And apparently some Bears can hardly contain their enthusiasm.

“Just from Khalil Mack’s perspective, let me go into the mind of Khalil Mack for a second, all right?” Hicks said. “I feel like he’s going into this game saying, ‘I’m going to put my best stuff out there, and whatever reps I get, that’s what I’m going to dominate.’ And that’s what happens.

“Can you tell how excited I am to have my new teammate?”

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