As Eddie Jackson has ascended to league-wide stardom, winning deserved awards and directing viral celebrations, the Bears’ “other” Eddie continues to operate as the biggest under-the-radar reason for this team’s defensive success in 2018.
Eddie Goldman doesn’t make plays that get clipped off and spread around social media, like Khalil Mack planting an offensive lineman on his back or Jackson conducting an orchestra after a pick-six. But ask around the Bears locker room, and Goldman’s teammates will tell you they wouldn’t be the defense they are without the work put in by their three-technique defensive tackle.
“No way possible,” inside linebacker Danny Trevathan said, when asked if a 3-4 defense can be successful without the kind of things Goldman does. “I have not seen it, and I don’t think I want to.”
There’s a reason why Trevathan said Goldman is his “best bud, best pal, best bro forever.” What Goldman is so good at, either in a 3-4 base or with two down linemen in nickel, is absorb double teams of interior offensive linemen. And that’s critical to a 3-4 defense’s chances of stopping the run, as center Cody Whitehair explained.
“A guy like Eddie is vital to having a 3-4 defense against the run, because he eats up the double team,” Whitehair said. “He doesn’t let the other guy get off and get the linebacker.”
With Goldman anchoring two offensive linemen, it’s freed up Trevathan (58 tackles) and Roquan Smith (63 tackles) to play fast without having to worry about a guy 60-80 pounds heavier than then barreling upfield to block them. This is also why Vic Fangio’s defense thrives with “undersized” inside linebackers — Smith is listed at 225 pounds, while Trevathan is 239 pounds.
So when Smith or Trevathan get a tackle for a loss — they’ve combined for 11 this year — or a big-time run stop, often times that play started with Goldman doing the dirty work up front.
“I love when he celebrates for other people,” Trevathan said. “Because I know he did something that play to help the other person get there. And it just goes to show that Eddie, he’s a staple in this defense.”
It’s not just that Goldman is a big body in the middle, standing at 6-foot-4 and 320 pounds. He has the athleticism to mesh with his frame and make him an interior force.
“He may not seem like it, but he’s super shifty,” guard James Daniels said. “I think that’s why he’s so hard to block because how shifty he is. And sometimes it doesn’t look like that but when you’re out there blocking him, you can tell how quick he is.”
Goldman is ninth on the Bears with 26 tackles, sixth with 16 pressures and fourth with 21 stops (defined by Pro Football Focus as tackles that constitute a loss for the defense). He only has one sack — the same as Jackson, Sherrick McManis and Deon Bush, among others — but does want to get more.
And Goldman has only played a little over 50 percent of the Bears’ defensive plays, with Fangio and position coach Jay Rodgers effectively rotating him, Akiem Hicks (who’s playing at a Pro Bowl level), Bilal Nichols, Jonathan Bullard and Roy Robertson-Harris in and out of games from a deep defensive line unit. The Bears were in nickel or dime on 69 percent of their defensive snaps in 2017; that usage remains high in 2018, meaning the Bears frequently only play two defensive linemen at a time.
“It just takes two guys in there who have to be able to control the inside in nickel,” Fangio said. “And he’s one of the main two for us.”
The Bears have limited opponents to a league-best 3.6 yards per rush, and have only allowed an average of 80.8 rushing yards per game, good for second in the NFL. Their standout run defense will be tested in the coming weeks, with the Giants’ Saquon Barkley, the Rams’ Todd Gurley and the Packers’ Aaron Jones looming as difficult challenges.
But with Goldman playing at a high level, the Bears’ defense should be up for the challenge.
“A lot of people don’t see it,” Trevathan said. “But I see it.”
And really, that’s the way Goldman likes it. He signed a four-year, $42.04 million extension in September in which the Bears guaranteed him $25 million. The front office recognized his work, as do his coaches, teammates and opposition. And that’s more than enough for him.
“I know I play a certain position where I don’t get a lot of recognition, and I’m cool with that,” Goldman said. “That’s my type of personality. Those who see me play know. Those who know football know.
“… At the end of the game, when the game’s over, the respect from the other team — that’s what I play for.”