Last season, an injury took out the Chicago Bears’ best defensive lineman. This season, the COVID-19 virus took out another excellent player on the defensive line. Can the unit continue to dominate?
The Chicago Bears usually depend on having an elite defense to succeed. Their offense hasn’t been very good historically. Sometimes they have good ones, but mostly their offenses have been mediocre.
As part of the elite defense, the Bears’ defensive line is where it all begins. The defense has three good ones playing that line. Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, and Bilal Nichols have done great jobs at neutralizing opposing offensive lines and stopping their run game. The line sustained a big injury in 2019 but still performed well. This season, they got hit by COVID concerns.
Hicks looking to come back healthy and wreaking havoc
Last season, Hicks, arguably the heart and soul of the defense, went down to injury. He played in the first four games before going down. He tried coming back late in the season but you could see he still wasn’t healthy.
Not having Hicks was a big blow to the line. His presence made life easier for a number of players. He provided cover for Khalil Mack. Mack saw more double teams without Hicks there. In the first four games in which Hicks was in, Mack was on his way to having a monster season again. He recorded 4.5 sacks in those games. He recorded just four sacks the rest of the season without an effective Hicks.
Hicks is healthy again and looking to create havoc. With him on the field, Mack has more space. Additionally, whoever is on the other side will see more action as running backs and quarterbacks will try to avoid going Hicks’ way.
Another season, another big blow to the defensive line
The season hasn’t started yet and the Bears’ defensive line suffered another big blow. This time it wasn’t even an injury that caused it. Goldman, the big guy in the middle who was so instrumental in stopping the run, opted out of the 2020 season due to concern over the COVID-19 virus. He has asthma so was in a high-risk category.
Man, Eddie’s a huge part… huge, huge, role to this defense. He’s one of those guys who puts his head down and goes to work. To have him not here, we’re definitely missing a key part.
Now the search for his replacement is underway. There are some defensive tackles available to sign, but it’s been two weeks now and the Bears are sitting still. With that happening (or not happening), the prevailing thought is that the coaches likey find someone already on the roster.
Bilal Nichols should be the next man up. He came into camp bigger and stronger, and last season showed to be a greatly improved run stopper. He can step up and do a good job without the Bears having to go out and dole out another contract.
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Roy Robertson-Harris is Nichols’ backup. He is a converted linebacker who plays well as a pass rusher. Playing in mainly a backup role he has 7.5 sacks. He’ll step up and replace Nichols at defensive end.
What about depth?
The Bears have the depth to move someone over to replace Goldman, but how does that affect the backup roles now?
The Bears brought back John Jenkins. He played for the Miami Dolphins last season but was on the Chicago Bears roster in 2017. He has the size (6-foot-3, 327 pounds) to play the nose. He’ll give Nichols plenty of rest to keep him fresh throughout the season.
The Bears also have Abdullah Anderson, who played in six games last season to cover for injuries. He and Brent Urban will be backups to the defensive ends. Also, Trevis Gipson, the Bears’ fifth-round pick this year, a good pass rusher, will see some snaps in sub-packages.
We’ll see how the moves end up working out for the Chicago Bears defense. If Nichols does a good job of stepping in for Goldman, the unit won’t miss a beat.