The nose tackle position in a 3-4 defense is usually asked to do a lot of the dirty work, and they rarely get any headlines. It comes with the job, so they get what they signed up for. Taking on blockers and eating double teams isn’t flashy enough to make a top 10 play list. These guys are content to do their part to help their team win.
When you think 3-4 defense, you think two things: pass rushing outside linebacker and a behemoth nose tackle. The Chicago Bears drafted Eddie Goldman in the second round of the 2015 draft to be a cornerstone piece for their future. Goldman was taken to aid the transition from the 4-3 scheme to the 3-4 during Vic Fangio’s first year coordinating Chicago’s defense.
We don’t hear a lot about the 6-foot-4, 320 pounder in Goldman. Since we recently had the opportunity to send a few questions over to Football Outsiders’ Assistant Editor Scott Kacsmar, I had to get his unique analytical take on the fourth-year pro.
Here’s the question I posed to Kacsmar.
Nose tackle Eddie Goldman anchors the middle of the Bears’ defense, but is often underappreciated due to the nature of his position. How important is he to their success in 2018?
Football Outsiders - “I would say nose tackles are overlooked compared to pass-rushing defensive tackles (such as Aaron Donald), and probably for good reason. It’s just more impactful in the NFL to get a pass rush up the middle than it is to occupy space and be more of a strength against the run. The thing that coaches to this day get ass-backwards is that stopping the pass is more important than stopping the run. It always has been, really. They get this wrong because they look at where defenses rank in yards allowed, ignoring that teams who are trailing tend to give up a lot of rushing yards as the opponent tries to run the clock out. Teams who win a lot lead a lot, so they give up a lot of passing yards as opponents try to play catch-up in the second half. Decades of NFL data supports this connection between rushing and passing statistics.”
“With someone like Goldman, he’s not really there to rush the passer, although 15 hurries last year for a nose tackle is respectable. Donald had 48.5 hurries for the Rams in 2017 in a different role, but that’s why he’s expected to break the bank for defensive players. Goldman is a very replaceable part, and he was actually Chicago’s worst run defender in our metrics last season (ranked 74th in yards per rush and stop rate). So while the space he occupies can help free up rookie linebacker Roquan Smith, the value added by Goldman is relatively small compared to the rest of the defense. If the Bears are going to improve on this side of the ball, it’s going to be more about Smith, Leonard Floyd, and Eddie Jackson making big strides forward. It would also help if the Bears can stay healthy as this has been the most-injured team over the last couple of seasons.”
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