I've called Chicago Bears 2nd round rookie Eddie Goldman the key to their defensive line. I'm not saying he's their best d-lineman, but his ability to win a starting job, or at the very least, become a major factor in the rotation, will go a long way into stabilizing the unit.
Goldman has had some time with the ones at nose tackle during training camp, but he opened up on the first unofficial depth chart listed as a backup behind Jeremiah Ratliff. While Ratliff is quite capable of playing the nose, I'd like to see him kick out to defensive end on occasion, because that will be easier on his soon to be 34 year old body. Goldman is also capable of playing anywhere along their line, but he has to work on his technique before gaining the full trust of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
With 2 more snaps than Will Sutton, Pro Football Focus had Goldman down as Chicago's busiest defensive lineman against the Miami Dolphins last Thursday. In my opinion the rookie needs as many preseason reps as possible to get into NFL game shape. PFF gave Goldman a neutral .3 on the night, and they had him down for two quarterback hurries and a defensive stop.
NFL.com's Bucky Brooks looked at Goldman's game in detail and graded his preseason debut with a B-.
Here's what Brooks had to say.
Strengths: The Bears desperately need a nose tackle with "knock-back" power and anchor ability to key their transition to a 3-4, and Goldman definitely shows those traits as a young player. The second-round pick controls the middle with his size and strength while exhibiting impressive instincts and awareness chasing the ball.
Weaknesses: Goldman has limitations as a pass rusher. He's more of a pocket pusher on the interior and doesn't fully showcase a wide array of rush moves at the point of attack.
What he needs to work on: Goldman is a rock-solid run stopper at the point of attack, but he needs to remain active and aggressive on pass downs. He was in on 26 defensive snaps in the preseason opener on Thursday, but he can earn more playing time by demonstrating a versatile game that encourages the Bears' staff to keep him as a three-down player. If Goldman can flash an effective arm-over or bull-rush move to generate penetration up the gut in Week 2, John Fox certainly would consider enhancing the rookie's role in the rotation.
Goldman did come out of college with questions about his pass rush, but this is all coachable. His hand placement, leverage and technique will all improve.
With top draft pick Kevin White on the shelf, the rookie everyone will be watching is Goldman. The Bears need him to make an immediate impact to help take the sting out of losing White.
When do you expect Goldman to eventually work his way into the starting lineup?