How has the Chicago Bears defensive line held up over the first half of the 2018 season?
With the Chicago Bears sitting at 5-3 halfway through the season it marks an excellent chance to look back at the first half of the season to learn how the team has grown into what it is. For this post, the defensive line will be evaluated.
Akiem has played the most snaps on the defensive line. Still, it is worth noting that Hicks is only playing 70% of the team’s snaps. This down considerably from the 85% and 86% snap rates he saw in the last two years in Chicago.
This has to do with increased depth on the unit. Still, Hicks is on pace for six sacks, eight tackles for loss and 16 quarterback hits. Those numbers are slightly down from eight sacks, 15 tackles for loss and 20 hits last year. However, he is playing just as impactful, grading out as the number three defensive linemen by Pro Football Focus.
So, he is producing a bit less, but playing a lot less. With that, when he is playing, it has been extremely efficient and led to impactful play. While he is not setting an All-Pro path, it has been a good year for Hicks.
Eddie Goldman is also seeing the effects of the depth, with his playing time down to 52%. That is down from 60% last year. However, this year Goldman is on pace for more sacks and tackles for loss than a year ago. A real improvement with fewer snaps. Goldman also cracked the top 20 in the PFF grading metrics.
Goldman is not used as a primary penetrator, but his upfield penetration numbers are up, despite playing less. That is the sign of an improved player.
More from Bear Goggles On
- Franchise tag and transition tag windows open for Chicago Bears and NFL
- How the Chicago Bears can control the running back market in 2023
- The Chicago Bears can own the city of Chicago moving forward
- Chicago Bears NFL Combine Preview: Quarterback
- 7 best free agent tackle options for Chicago Bears
Roy Robertson-Harris on the field for about 36% of the snaps. That is a rotational role but is excelling in it. He is on pace for five sacks, six tackles for loss and 14 quarterback hits. He is getting after it. This is what would be expected from a former edge rusher turned interior lineman.
Bullard has played just about 33% of his team’s defensive snaps. However, of the group, he has been the disappointment. He has a few run stuffs but has hardly shown any pressure on the quarterback. On top of that, he is ranked 86th amongst defensive lineman by PFF, easily the lowest mark on the team.
The Bears are rotating five linemen with ease, but if one player were to lose time on the unit slowly, it would be Jonathan Bullard.
Bilal Nichols is the player who is going to end up fourth amongst defensive lineman in snaps. He has out-snapped Jonathan Bullard in each of the past two weeks, is more versatile and has been overall better.
Nichols is on pace for one sack, six tackles or loss, and four quarterback hits. He has more sacks and hits on 51 fewer snaps. Nichols has not played enough snaps to be ranked by PFF, but his 76.1 grade is ahead of not only Bullard but also Robertson-Harris who is graded 73.6. Nichols would rank 23rd amongst defensive tackles with an increased workload.
Over the last three weeks, Nichols has cemented himself as the number three defensive lineman, and the numbers do not lie. Look for his role to increase by the week.