Khalil Mack. Eddie Jackson. Akiem Hicks. Roquan Smith. Kyle Fuller. The list of Bears defenders having tremendous seasons is seemingly endless.
Each of them deserves praise for the turnaround that started a few years ago and has culminated in possibly the best defense in the entire NFL.
That’s not hyperbole. By most defensive metrics and rankings, the Bears are one of the top, if not the top, defensive unit.
And you don’t need to be a football expert to see the one area where the Bears truly excel: stopping the run.
And no one has been more integral to stopping the run then nose tackle Eddie Goldman. While Mack and Hicks get all the praise along the defensive line, Goldman has quietly put together a fantastic year.
Before the season, he inked a new four-year, $42 million deal and has lived up to the hype.
He is currently Pro Football Focus’ 15th ranked defensive linemen and has the 8th best run defense grade.
On a per-snap basis, he continues to be one of the best in the league at creating stops at or behind the line of scrimmage. His 13.8 run stop percentage ranks second in the NFL, narrowly edging out his teammate Hicks.
He’s been the driving force behind the league’s best run defense surrendering only 3.6 yards per carry to opposing teams. When facing runs inside the tackles, that number shrinks to a meager 2.9 yards per carry.
While it is true that the NFL is more of a passing league these days, stopping the run is still a critical function of any defense. 12 of the top 15 teams in rushing yards per game have winning records this season.
The Saints and Rams, the two highest scoring offenses in the NFC, rank second and third in rushing attempts per game respectively. If the Bears have any hope of making it to the Super Bowl, they will have to beat one or both of these teams. And if they do manage to beat them, Goldman’s ability to stop the run will be a big reason why.
How He Wins
Goldman has been successful in stopping the run in multiple ways. The first way is fairly typical of elite nose tackles as he is able to use his massive frame to anchor and shed blocks using his long arms and powerful lower body.
He does just that here against the Bills. He’s lined up as the two technique directly over the left guard and is responsible for containing both the A and B gaps. LeSean McCoy opts for the former and Goldman is there to wrap him up.
However, he is also quicker than you might expect a man of his size to be. Here he is shading the left shoulder of the center. He beats his man with a swim move and quick feet. The offensive lineman barely gets a hand on him before falling to the ground.
Goldman’s agility at his size helps set him apart from other, more limited nose tackles.
Double teaming Goldman on run plays might be your best bet to take him out of the play. Although, even that isn’t a sure thing. He has shown the ability to not only eat up double teams and allow others to make plays, but beat the double teams and take down the ball carrier himself.
That’s exactly what happens during this play against the Bills. He is lined up as a two-technique shading the inside shoulder of the left guard. The guard and center double team him, but Goldman is able to anchor and stop the runner for a short gain.
Now, you would like to see more in terms of a pass rush, although he has been better rushing the passer this year than last increasing his pressure rate from 5.2 percent to 6.5. Any production rushing the passer you get from your nose tackle, especially in this defense, is simply a bonus.
Being a nose tackle in the NFL is often a thankless job, and Goldman often gets overshadowed by his more productive peers. You can’t simply look at the numbers when assessing nose tackles. He does all the little things that let the players around him shine.
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio praised Goldman before the season while also challenging him to take the next step.
“As he stacks up with nose tackles, he’s up there,” Fangio told Larry Mayer. “He’s a good, solid player, and if he’s going to be considered more than a good, solid player, this would be the year to show it.”
It’s safe to say he’s showed it this year.