Defensive tackle Eddie Goldman opted out of the 2020 season. As a result, the Chicago Bears turned to Bilal Nichols. Nichols feels ready to step up to the challenge and is proving it in camp so far.
The Chicago Bears have an elite defense. The team leans heavily on the unit to win games. All it needs from the offense is to be average, not mediocre. If that happens, this is a strong team that competes for a playoff spot.
That’s why it was such a shock when defensive tackle Eddie Goldman opted out of the 2020 season. Goldman was a big plug in the middle helping shut down opposing running backs. Without him, would the rush defense be the same?
With Goldman out for the season, the Bears needed to turn to someone else to help. There were plenty of available free agents to sign. Instead, the team decided to go internal with a replacement.
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The Bears re-signed John Jenkins to back up Goldman. He played with the Bears in 2017 so he’s familiar with the system. He won’t be the starter, though. The Bears tapped Bilal Nichols to man the middle of the defensive line.
Nichols was the Bears’ fifth-round pick (14th overall) in 2018. He played defensive end Akiem Hicks‘ backup but played so well he became the starter on the other side of the line, where he showed promise until he broke his hand.
In the offseason, Nichols bulked up and got stronger. With his position change, that body change is an advantage for him. A bigger and stronger Nichols does a better job at nose tackle. If he keeps his athleticism then he can wreak havoc.
Nichols eager to show he’s ready to step up
So far in camp, Nichols has shown that he is ready to step up and play well in Goldman’s absence. He was eager to show it since camp started.
Eddie G, he’s a straight-out monster. He’s a guy I look up to, along with Akiem and guys like that. [He’s] gonna be missed, but I’m ready to step up. I’ve trained hard. I’m ready for this opportunity. I’m ready to just showcase what I can do. As far as me playing nose — I played nose a little bit last year and my rookie year, so I’m used to it. It’s nothing I can’t handle.
Nichols is pumped and ready to go. The question now is what happens at the end position he left. Roy Robertson-Harris takes over there. He did well in a mostly backup role. In 44 career games (just seven starts, all in 2019), he recorded 7.5 sacks and 65 tackles. He has a big opportunity as a starter himself.
If Nichols does step up and does a good job of replacing Goldman it keeps the run defense as good as before. If he continues to improve his pass rush, that’ll make the Bears defense even more potent.