Last year the Chicago Bears plucked defensive lineman Eddie Goldman in the 2nd round of the draft after many pundits had him with a 1st round grade. The Bears were transitioning form a 4-3 defense to a 30 front and Goldman was a perfect fit to man the nose tackle position at 6'4", 336 pounds.
He was solid against the run as a rookie, but his pass rushing was a pleasant surprise after most scouts called that a weakness leading up to the draft. He has the strength and pad level to have an effective bullrush and he has the tenacity to keep fighting through blocks to get after the quarterback. His 4.5 sacks were 4th among all rookies last year and I expect that number to increase in 2016.
Goldman showed an ability to play either 1 gap or 2 gap in defensive coordinator Vic Fangio's defense last year and with much better talent around him this season, opposing offenses will have more to worry about.
The Bears have Goldman listed at 320 pounds on their website, but reports have the coaches wanting him to play at 325. He will be quicker this year, not only because he's in better shape, but also because his knowledge of the playbook and experience will give him a mental edge over his rookie year.
From the Chicago Tribune;
"The great thing about Eddie is now we have a full season full of tape of things he did really well and things he didn't do very well," defensive line coach Jay Rodgers said. "(Now) he can watch himself do things correctly. And then when he can do things correctly more consistently, you're going to see more plays from him."
"The things you see in Eddie from a year ago are that he's a little bit lighter," Rodgers said. "He's quicker with his feet and he knows where he's going so he can play from a more leveraged position. He's a lot more square on blocks."
The Bears must improve on last years' 22nd ranked run defense, and that starts up front with better line play, and more specifically it starts with a more efficient Goldman clogging up the middle. Even though Goldman is down some weight, he hasn't sacrificed his best asset, his strength. His coaches and teammates have been lauding his play this offseason through mini camp and OTAs.
Goldman will line up over the nose in the Bears' base D, but I would expect him to move up and down the line a bit more this season. He can collapse the pocket from the interior, eat up two blockers when asked, but I think he's quick enough to split those double teams and to line up and do stuff defensive ends do too.
"We're always going to put the best people out there on the field," said defensive line coach Jay Rodgers. "You've heard coach (John) Fox say, ‘You're role is whatever you make of it.' So if he's showing up on tape as a guy who's producing in pass-rush situations, we're going to put him in there.
"I have no reservations of labeling guys ends and noses, when we get in nickel situations and they're the best two [interior] guys on the field. That doesn't matter to me. It's the best two guys on the field. And if they're tired, it's the next best guy on the field, whatever position they play. And sometimes your nose is a better pass rusher than a guy who's playing end, that's why he was out there a lot."
Chicago's d-line will be much better this year with the free agent pick up of Akiem Hicks and the drafting of Jonathan Bullard, but Goldman is still the key that that line. I like Hicks as a player and I like the potential that Bullard and even holdover Ego Ferguson has, but I think Goldman can be special.
He made numerous all rookie teams after his 2015 season and many, including me, expect him to have a big 2016.
What are your expectations for Goldman this year?