Pretty much all of the focus from fans and the media will be on the Chicago Bears secondary and pass rush. Specifically the new cornerbacks and safeties and of course the unpredictable health of edge rushers Leonard Floyd and Pernell McPhee. That shouldn’t be a surprise. Most people believe that’s where defensive excellence starts for any team in a pass-first league. That’s fair, but it doesn’t erase the Eddie Goldman importance factor.
The essence of the NFL has always been stop the run first before thinking about the pass. Teams that can’t stop the run are almost inevitably victimized by play action for big plays. It’s why coaches have never backed off the mantra even to this day when quarterbacks are dominating the landscape more than ever.
When it comes to a 3-4 defense, no position is more critical to stopping the run than the nose tackle. They control the middle of the defensive line and are tasked with clogging the interior lanes. Teams that have good ones like Baltimore (Brandon Williams) unsurprisingly had great overall defenses. It’s likely Chicago still doesn’t understand how key Goldman is to the Bears run stoppage.
Eddie Goldman importance reflected in his absence
The Bears finished with the 27th ranked unit against the run in 2016. That’s bad. As it turns out though, they were a different team when Goldman was on the field. He only played six games unfortunately, dealing with multiple injuries. When he did manage to play though, his impact was tangible.
In those six games, the Bears allowed an average of 118.83 yards on 31.5 carries. That comes out to 3.77 yards per carry. Pretty good. When he’s out though? Those numbers ballooned to 123.7 yards on 25.4 carries for an average of 4.87 per carry. Then again if the numbers aren’t enough to prove it, watch the tape.
— Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 16, 2016
What makes his impact even more impressive last season was the level of competition. In the six contests he played, the Bears faced three of the 10 best rushing offenses of 2016. That included Houston (8th), Tennessee (3rd) and San Francisco (4th). By contrast eight of the opponents they faced in the other 10 games ranked 20th or worse in rushing including the Giants, Lions and Vikings who were 29th, 30th and 32nd respectively.
Yet that didn’t stop Chicago from falling apart without Goldman on the field. It’s little wonder head coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio are anxious to see him back. They know what he’s capable of doing. Like with his fellow teammates, it all comes down to the big question.
Can he stay healthy?