Bears

Bears bulk up 3-4 middle, draft Florida State DT Goldman

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Bears bulk up 3-4 middle, draft Florida State DT Goldman

When Florida State defensive tackle Eddie Goldman was a high school standout in Washington, D.C., he had ample occasions to see the Dallas Cowboys play his hometown Redskins. One Cowboys player in particular became the player he sees as his model.

Fittingly perhaps, after the Bears selected him with the No. 7 pick, 39th overall, of the 2015 draft’s second round on Friday, he is now on the same NFL roster as that player — nose tackle Jeremiah Ratliff.

“I know you haven’t seen him lately, but I still remember the days he was with the Cowboys,” Goldman said at this year’s NFL Scouting Combine.

[MORE: For Kevin White, move to Bears, Chicago just another transition]

“[Ratliff] hardnosed. He’s so physical. I believe one time he was mic’d up in a game and one thing he kept saying is ‘they aren’t going to win the physical part of the game.’ That’s a thing I try to pride myself on, is being physical. He came up in big moments, too.

“That’s one thing I noticed about him. He’d get sacks in tight fourth-quarter games, that stood out to me.”

Goldman now projects to compete directly with Ratliff and a handful of applicants for work at nose tackle in the Bears’ emerging 3-4. At 6-4, 334 pounds, Goldman immediately becomes the biggest Bears defensive lineman and a prototypical nose tackle, something the Bears currently do not have. Ratliff is 34, missed five games last season with different injuries and has not played all 16 games in any of the last three seasons.

Coach John Fox laid out the expectations for his nose tackles during this week’s minicamp:

“Obviously hold the point,” Fox said. “You’re good on defense when you’re good up the middle. I think we’ve got some good candidates there… Basically a block-eater inside that’s tough and doesn’t get knocked off the ball.”

The defense rotated multiple players in at the nose-tackle spot during this week’s veteran minicamp but none with the mass and force of Goldman.

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The Bears want more than a block-eater in the middle and Goldman had six sacks over Florida State’s last two seasons.

“I can give you a little finesse now and again,” Goldman said, laughing. “But for the main part, I’m a tough, hard-nosed type of guy.”

He doesn’t take offense at being characterized as a run-stuffer. Just the opposite, in fact.

“It’s accurate and I like it,” Goldman said. “I’m a good pass rusher as well. I can stuff the run and then on third-and-long I can get after the passer.”

 

Three keys and prediction: Bears vs. Patriots

Three keys and prediction: Bears vs. Patriots

1. Good games from Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan. Here’s a sampling of Pro Football Focus grades for primary middle/inside/will linebackers against New England this year: 

Reggie Ragland (KC): 60.1
Anthony Hitchens (KC): 30.2
Zaire Franklin (IND): 48.6
Najee Goode (IND): 47.1
Kiko Alonso (MIA): 63.9
Raekwon McMillan (MIA): 62.5
Christian Jones (DET): 59.7
Jarrad Davis (DET): 29.8
Telvin Smith Sr. (JAX): 64.1
Myles Jack (JAX): 61.0
Bernardrick McKinney (HOU): 68.7
Zach Cunningham (HOU): 43.2

Think what you will of Pro Football Focus’ grades, but the average here is 53.2. Interestingly, though, the average grade for these 12 players over the course of the 2018 season is 51.5. So maybe the issue is the Patriots have faced a bunch of mediocre-to-bad linebackers, allowing them to take advantage of those soft spots with Sony Michel running the ball and James White catching it. Smith’s PFF grade is 62.3; Trevathan’s is 64.3, so by this measure, they’re better than any of the interior linebackers the Patriots have faced but still are the weak spot in the Bears’ defense (only Jonathan Bullard has a lower PFF grade among players with 100 or more snaps). 

How Smith and Trevathan play will be key in determining how quickly Brady is able to get the ball out (with passes to White), and how many times they get into third-and-less-than-five situations (with Michel running it). Both those factors will be critical for the Bears’ pass rush, which brings us to our next point.

2. Pressure Tom Brady without blitzing. Brady is a master of beating blitzes, completing 23 of 21 passes for 314 yards with three touchdowns, no interceptions and only one sack when blitzed, per PFF (that’s good for a 138.4 passer rating). When he’s under pressure, though, he has his lowest passer rating — which is still 87.2 — but the point here is that the Bears can’t afford to have to send blitzes to try to get pressure on Brady. The Bears were one of the best teams in the league at pressuring opposing quarterbacks without blitzing before the trip to Miami, and how healthy Khalil Mack really is will be a critical determining factor in those efforts. But when the Bears do earn their pass-rushing opportunities, as Akiem Hicks put it, they need to at least affect Brady and not let him comfortably sit back to pick apart their defense. 

3. Convert red zone opportunities into touchdowns. This was a point Taylor Gabriel made this week about the state of the NFL in 2018: You can no longer afford to settle for three points or, worse, come away from a red zone possession with no points. Scoring is up league-wide, and the Patriots have scored 38, 38 and 43 points in their last three games. One of the biggest reasons the Bears lost that shootout in Miami was two turnovers from inside the five-yard line (Jordan Howard’s fumble, Mitch Trubisky’s interception). Stopping New England’s offense will be difficult, and the expectation should be for Sunday to be a high-scoring afternoon. If that’s the case, the Bears will have to get in the end zone every opportunity they get. The good news: New England’s defense is allowing a touchdown on 68 percent of their opponents’ possessions inside the red zone. 

Prediction: Patriots 31, Bears 27. The Bears’ defense sounded properly motivated after getting gouged by Brock Osweiler in Miami last weekend, but that only goes so far when one of the best quarterbacks of all time rolls into town. This winds up being a back-and-forth affair, but the guy with 54 game-winning drives in his regular season and playoff career makes it 55 late in the fourth quarter at Soldier Field. A close loss to the Patriots wouldn’t dampen the positive vibes around the Bears, so long as they respond with wins against the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills in the next two weeks.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Can the Bears pull off an upset at home against Tom Brady and the Patriots?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Can the Bears pull off an upset at home against Tom Brady and the Patriots?

Chris Emma, Matt Zahn and Gabe Ramirez join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00- NBC Sports National NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh joins the panel to discuss the Bulls’ terrible defensive performance as well as Zach LaVine’s impressive season debut.

11:35- Khalil Mack is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Patriots. Can the Bears pull off the upset against Tom Brady?

23:50- NBC Sports Boston Patriots insider Tom E. Curran joins Kap to talk about how New England views the Bears and discuss how Matt Nagy’s team can exploit the Patriots’ weaknesses.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below.

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