Eddie Goldman More Critical Within NFC North Than Ever
There is almost an even balance between teams using the 3-4 defensive front and 4-3 now in the NFL, 15 with 3-4 and 17 with 4-3.
It means little because so many defenses can flip between the two depending on down, distance and situation.
What is definite is an ideal nose tackle for playing 3-4 is difficult to find and the Bears have benefited since 2015 for Ryan Pace's choice of Eddie Goldman in the second round of the draft.
Considering the emphasis Green Bay, Minnesota and Detroit have all put on building up their running attacks, the Bears can be satisfied their personnel is suited for combating this partly because of Goldman.
Goldman often gets painted as the underrated or unheralded player on their defense. Coach Matt Nagy last year liked the term "underappreciated" better.
If this is true, it's more by the public than by the Bears and other NFL teams because Goldman has received his share of honors.
In 2018 and last season he made Pro Bowl alternate. Both were impressive because Pro Bowl voting is inherently slanted toward 4-3 defenses. Its why Akiem Hicks has only one Pro Bowl berth.
In 2015 Goldman also made the all-rookie team.
The Bears don't use Goldman much lined up directly over the center, except sometimes in obvious short-yardage run situations. He shades the center, and he provides more than just the run-plugging ability most 3-4 defenses ask of their nose tackles.
Goldman had 14 quarterback pressures the last two seasons. The run-of-the-mill nose tackle doesn't even see a quarterback 14 times in a season. They're buried face first in the dirt at the line of scrimmage to prevent the run.
Goldman's 12 1/2 career sacks speak to the fact he can do both like a 4-3 defensive tackle might, even though he's on the field only around 50% of the snaps because the Bears switch to four-man pressure in passing situations.
Last year under defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, Goldman played fewer snaps than he had in the previous two seasons, and only part of this had to do with missing the final game due to a concussion. He played only 15 games in 2017, as well, but had a career-high 58% of the defensive snaps that season.
Pagano's preference is more for pass-rushing personnel and it's understandable with the way the league has gone toward the pass more.
The emphasis on running the ball brought on by the Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers, and a change to a more run-oriented attack by the Green Bay Packers could mean more snaps for the road blocks on defensive lines in the future.
The Lions drafted another running back. The Vikings have aimed more at running since firing John DeFilippo as offensive coordinator after 2018
With Goldman and Akiem Hicks inside, the Bears on defense are well equipped to handle offensive variations.
Eddie Goldman at a Glance
Florida State NT
Key Statistic: Although he's operating in a two-gap scheme requiring he occupy blockers and has never played more than 58% of defensive snaps, Goldman has made 17 tackles for loss in five NFL seasons.
2020 Projection: two sacks, 36 tackles, four tackles for loss.