Bears changes at NT involve more than drafting Eddie Goldman


Bears changes at NT involve more than drafting Eddie Goldman

During this year’s Scouting Combine, Bears GM Ryan Pace said that his early assessment of the roster was that the Bears had two players capable of anchoring the middle of the coming 3-4 defense. Ego Ferguson was a stout first-year player, and Jeremiah Ratliff had earned trips to Pro Bowls as a nose tackle.

In keeping with the fluid nature of so many positions, particularly on defense, things have changed. And are changing. It has to do with considerably more than just what transpired in last weekend’s draft.

Most immediately, the Bears used a second-round pick (39th overall) to add Florida State’s Eddie Goldman, a prototypical nose tackle and the biggest player on the Bears’ roster at 335 pounds. Goldman will not be handed the starting job day one but the defensive surprise of the offseason will be if Goldman is not the Week 1 starter.

He fits precisely the template of coach John Fox for a nose tackle in base 3-4.

[MORE: Bears position battles forming along O-line]

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

More interesting, however, is what now becomes of Ferguson and Ratliff. Because neither quite fits the classic mold of 3-4 “block-eater,” for slightly different reasons.

Ratliff, who did not attend last week’s voluntary minicamp sessions, is not expected to wind up at nose tackle after all. He can play the position. But because of his age (34 in August), size (305) and standing as the best pass rusher among the current defensive linemen, Ratliff projects to be at end where his rush skills can be put to maximum use, rather than hunkering down inside with a primary assignment of run stuffing.

Meanwhile, Ferguson has gone from a 4-3 backup nose tackle in 2014 to a 3-4 nose this year, and also has turned up at defensive end as well in the “Where’s Waldo?” shuffling of nearly every defensive lineman into nearly every defensive position. End or tackle?

“Just call me a ‘D-lineman,” Ferguson said, laughing. “That’s the best way.”

[RELATED: Ryan Pace continues scouting department overhaul]

Last year’s Bears coaches told Ferguson before he was drafted that one plan was to use him in part as a “two-technique,” playing head up on a guard instead of shaded to a gap. Ferguson started no games in 2014 as Stephen Paea had a breakout year that earned him a multi-year deal with the Washington Redskins.

But Ferguson has been the object of in-depth discussions and scenarios this offseason.

“We’ve talked about [Ferguson] a lot,” Pace said after the draft. “We project him as really nose and end. He can be both for us. So we don’t have him set at one position right now. He can be a nose or an end. He has position flexibility there, too.”

What becomes significant with Ferguson is his weight loss, to the point of being sub-300 pounds — not the stuff of nose tackles. It is weight loss by design.

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“I feel like this fits me,” Ferguson said. “I lost about 15 pounds, to 298-299, just trying to get a little more pass rushing and being able to run around a little more. I think 295-300 will be about right.

“They want you to be strong and explosive, not just big.”

The combination of Goldman, flanked by Jarvis Jenkins and Ray McDonald in 3-4 base, with a lighter-quicker Ferguson jumping in with Ratliff on sub packages becomes an intriguing prospect in an overall scheme makeover.

“As far as body types, styles, all those things, everybody comes in different shapes and sizes,” Fox said. “And we’ll get a chance to evaluate it.”

Bears sign LB Devante Bond to replace Roquan Smith on active roster

Bears sign LB Devante Bond to replace Roquan Smith on active roster

The loss of Roquan Smith to injured reserve on Monday (torn pec) created an obvious need for the Bears at linebacker on the depth chart.

Fellow starter Danny Trevathan will likely miss Sunday's game against the Packers as he continues to rehab his elbow injury, which leaves little depth behind Nick Kwiatkoski and Kevin Pierre-Louis, the reserves-turned-starters in Week 15.

As a result, Chicago signed former Buccaneers linebacker Devante Bond on Monday.

Bond, 26, was selected by Tampa Bay in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL draft after a strong career at Oklahoma and has six starts on his resume over the last three years. He was released by the Buccaneers on October 19 after being suspended by the NFL for four weeks for violating the league's PED policy. 

Bond will slide into a reserve role for the Bears.

Allen Robinson's 'Within Reach Foundation' hosts holiday shopping spree for Chicago Youth Centers

Allen Robinson's 'Within Reach Foundation' hosts holiday shopping spree for Chicago Youth Centers

Bears wide receiver has had his best stretch of the season recently, collecting at least 5 receptions and a touchdown in each of his last three games. But Robinson is taking the cake as perhaps the Bears MVP off the field too, as his "Within Reach Foundation" just accomplished an awesome goal in providing quite a great experience for a group of underprivileged youths. 

Robinson's Within Reach Foundation hosted 25 kids from the Chicago Youth Center and gave the kids an excellent experience that started with an early Christmas shopping spree for each kid. Also as a part of the event, each child received football with Robinson's autograph on it and a $150 gift card to Dick's Sporting Goods. 

"A lot of kids don't have things under the Christmas tree... being able to do this for kids is fun," stated Robinson. 

The ultimate goal of Robinson's Within Reach Foundation is to positively impact at least 5,000 students by the end of 2020 through their various outreach programs. 

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