In the second of a three-part series, CSNChicago.com looks at where the critical 3-4 position of nose tackle has been this offseason and where it might be going into training camp.
When GM Ryan Pace discussed the nose-tackle position back in February at the NFL Scouting Combine, he alluded to the two options he saw on the roster at the time: veteran Jeremiah Ratliff and second-year tackle Ego Ferguson. That said, the Bears then invested their second-round draft pick – the round in which Ferguson was selected last year – in Eddie Goldman out of Florida State.
Since then Ferguson has slimmed down to less than 300 pounds and shifted to one of the end/tackle slots away from the middle. Ratliff is the single best defensive lineman on the roster but turns 34 in August and has played in just 21 games combined over the last three seasons. He is a four-time Pro Bowl lineman but 2011 was the last of those appearances and he is not a space-eater (303 pounds) suited to demanding double teams in a defense that has been beyond challenged at stopping the run the past two years.
“Bigger is better,” Bears head coach John Fox has said, “and so we’ll see where that takes us.”
When Ray McDonald did not work out, the Bears were left with a major hole at one of three down-linemen spots. But while depth is always a concern on either line, the Bears have settled on absolutely nothing in the defensive interior at this point, and have shown some intriguing scenarios.
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Ratliff has indeed lined up on the nose. So has Goldman (330 pounds). So has smallish second-year tackle Will Sutton. Given Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s history of creative scheming, the Bears have taken looks at size (Goldman) at the nose and also some quickness/pass-rush potential (Ratliff, Sutton).
“We’re not going to hold a guy being a rookie against him from putting him on the field,” Fangio said of Goldman. “He's big and strong, which is important. We don't feel like he'll get knocked back into our inside linebackers, which is really important.”
Coming Wednesday: Offensive line decisions loom at multiple spots