Eddie Goldman has slimmed down and has the looks of a dominant defensive lineman.
Ryan Pace’s 2015 draft class had an excellent campaign last season. While Adrian Amos was probably the Chicago Bears’ most valuable rookie (based on earning a starting position as a fifth round pick), the most outstanding rookie was nose tackle Eddie Goldman.
Goldman quickly earned the respect of offensive linemen and coaches around the league, demanding double teams at the point of attack early in the season. Coming out of Florida State, scouts said that Goldman’s biggest weakness was his ability to rush the passer from the interior, but that already has proven to be false. Goldman tallied 4.5 sacks as a rookie, and according to Pro Football Focus, Goldman finished fifth among rookies for pass rush generation, and was the only interior player out of the group.
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Goldman’s play steadily improved throughout the season and he was rewarded at season’s end, being voted part of the all-rookie team by the PFWA (Pro Football Writers Association). Many fans expect Goldman to take strides into becoming a top-notch defender in 2016 and based on early returns at OTAs that very well could happen.
Goldman has lost roughly 15 lbs in the offseason, but didn’t suffer any decrease in strength, but did increase his quickness and agility. The Bears (and Goldman) hope that his lighter frame will help with stamina and keep him on the field more often in 2016 (Goldman only played 50% of defensive snaps last season).
Conditioning alone should help Goldman be more productive this season, but if his lighter frame does make him quicker without decreasing his strength, it should help his lateral movements across the line of scrimmage on running plays and help him get to the quarterback on passing downs.
Goldman’s improvement in quickness and stamina should help him in 2016, but an improvement in talent around him will also give his play a boost. Last season, the Bears had very poor play out of their inside linebackers and their defensive ends were below average as well. This season, with Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman behind Goldman and Akiem Hicks and Jonathan Bullard beside him, teams will be far less likely to key on Goldman as their focus will have to be on multiple defenders, not just the young nose tackle.
Goldman addressed the media during OTAs and he sees what the Bears are building on the front seven, “I know what we plan to do. It’s looking like a vicious front because we have a combination of speed and strength.”
The Bears defense was average in 2015, that may not seem like much, but coming off 2014 where the team’s defense was historically bad, that was significant improvement. For the Bears to make that next step into becoming a top 10 or potentially top 5 defensive unit, it’s going to take a pass rush to do it. Opponents know it, and more importantly, the Bears know it.
The Bears have gone to great lengths to improve their pass rush, from all the free agent acquisitions, to the drafting of Leonard Floyd. It can’t be understated how important collapsing the pocket and creating an interior pass rush is for defenses to consistently get to the quarterback and that will fall on the shoulders of Eddie Goldman.
The Bears are adding several components to the defense to build up the talent base, but the one thing they don’t have is depth. That takes years of solid drafting to build up and Ryan Pace simply hasn’t been here long enough to do that. With that in mind, the Bears don’t have much after Goldman at nose tackle, so for Chicago to become a top defensive unit, they need the young defensive lineman to play more snaps in 2016.
Vic Fangio is one of the best defensive minds in the NFL and he knows the talent that Goldman possesses. Fangio stated at the end of the season that he felt Goldman was one of the building blocks of the future for this defense.
Goldman has the size, strength, and agility to become one of the elite interior defenders in all of the NFL. We saw that the talent was there during his rookie season, now Goldman just has to put it all together. If he does, the entire NFL will take notice in 2016.