Chicago Bears 2015 Position Preview: Nose Tackle
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
It’s hard not to make “Turd” Ferguson jokes after the way he played in his rookie season, but he was considered a developmental prospect when drafted so in fairness not much should have been expected from Ferguson last year. He was forced to play more than planned due to multiple injuries on the D-line. Ferguson appeared in all 16 games, seeing significant snaps in five of them when Ratliff was injured. He showed flashes of competence early in the season (NYJ, GB, CAR) with 2 sacks, 2 QB hurries, and 2 deflected passes in that 3 game stretch, but Ferguson struggled the 2nd half of the season. Maybe it was a conditioning issue, but he hit bottom in week 14 against the Cowboys (who do have a great O-line) when he was pancaked multiple times in the first half and ultimately benched for UDFA Brandon Dunn. Ferguson has ideal size (6’3 | 315) and athletic ability, but only had one year of starting experience in college so is understandably raw. DC Vic Fangio has had a track record of success developing talented, but raw D-linemen, so hopefully he can work his magic with Ferguson because the Bears really need him this season.
Was a surprise contributor late last season after Ferguson’s struggles sent him to the bench the last quarter of the season. Dunn was a UDFA for the Bears last year who didn’t appear on any draftniks’ boards, but held his own as a rookie. Unfortunately for Dunn, Fangio’s schemes have usually used NTs who have the ability to be either 1 or 2 gap players, but Dunn is a classic 2-gap run stopping NT. With the release of McDonald, the Bears will need all the help they can get and Dunn could end up seeing some snaps at NT on obvious run downs or at least short-yardage situations.
With the Bears transitioning to a 3-4 scheme, they need a few nose tackles who can occupy blockers in the middle of the line and free up the linebackers to make plays. The Bears used a 2nd round pick on NT Eddie Goldman who is projected to be the starter, but they have little depth behind Goldman at the position. Veteran DT Jay Ratliff will probably have to slide over to LE to take over for the recently released Ray McDonald. Ferguson could get snaps at NT, but he had trouble with double teams as a rookie, so may be a better fit as a 5-tech DE. The would leave Williams and Dunn competing for the backup NT job. Dunn is a more consistent run stopper, but Williams is more athletic with considerably more upside. Playing limited snaps in a rotation may be the best fit for Williams, allowing him to go all out in short bursts and use his surprising quickness to disrupt interior blockers. If he can keep himself out of trouble, his weight around 335, and his effort level consistent… Williams could be a factor inside and significantly improve the Bears run defense.