If Akiem Hicks can’t go for the Bears on Sunday, replacing him on the defensive line will be no small task. But one thing that should help is the continued re-emergence of Eddie Goldman at nose tackle. Goldman finally made his regular season debut against the Lions in Week 4, and admitted there was some rust he needed to shake off. Goldman hadn’t played since 2019, since he opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns, then was sidelined by a knee injury for the first three weeks of this season.
“I could have used my hands better,” Goldman said about one particular play on which he felt rusty. “And I said it in my mind, I was like, usually I would make that play if I used my hands.
“After looking at the film, I guess I didn’t do as bad as I thought.”
Goldman said that as the game went on, he felt like he got better and better. That portends to bigger and better things in Week 5, and Goldman expects he’ll be able to stay on the field for more plays, too.
At inside linebacker, Alec Ogletree said he noticed Goldman’s impact already, just playing with him for one game.
“He ate up a lot of blocks, for sure,” Ogletree said. “I think that’s how I got that TFL... When he does that, it’s our job to get downhill and fill those gaps, because that’s a lot of weight to hold up. That’s 600 pounds to hold up, two guys, he’s holding up two guys. Obviously we love it because it keeps us clean and stuff but when he does do that, we have to make sure that we’re doing our job of getting down and getting tackles, TFLs, whatever it is.”
But it’s not just Hicks’ play on the field that the Bears need to replace, it’s his energy too.
“Definitely, somebody needs to bring the fire,” Goldman said.
That said, Goldman believes there are several guys up to the task as defensive hype men.
“Defense has a lot of guys that can rise in certain situations, that can make plays in key situations,” he said. “Bilal is becoming more of a vocal guy. Eddie Jackson is more of a vocal guy. Mack is more of a vocal guy. The defense has a lot of people we can depend on for that. (Roquan Smith).”
Even though he’s known as a shy guy, Goldman even said he can speak up at times.
“I mean, I get excited and I get vocal when I need to be.”
The last time the Bears played the Raiders they were also without Hicks for most of the game. Eight plays into their matchup in 2019, Hicks suffered an elbow injury and the defense had a tough time recovering. The Raiders rushed the ball 39 times for 169 yards and three touchdowns. The Bears couldn’t muster any sacks.
Of course, it’s two years later now, and each team looks different. But for the Bears to pull off the upset this time around, they’ll have to do a better job coping if Hicks isn’t good to go.