Any way you slice it, Chicago Bears rookie defensive lineman Eddie Goldman had a very productive rookie season in 2015.
The nose tackle played in 15 contests and finished with 22 tackles and 4.5 sacks. The former second-round pick out of Florida State was stout against the run and provided added value as a pass rusher. When you consider he had just 1.5 fewer sacks than Pernell McPhee last year, it's clear that Goldman is a quality all-around nose tackle with a bright future in the NFL.
Listed at 332 pounds, Goldman said he was even heavier than that his rookie year.
“I was heavy, about 340 when I came in," he said.
The coaching staff asked Goldman to lose weight, which is exactly what he did, dropping 15 pounds during the off-season.
“325 is the ideal weight for me, at least from the perspective of the coaches," said Goldman. “I feel like I’m lighter as far as my weight and moving better."
There's a common saying that goes, "If it's not broke, don't fix it."
According to Pro Football Focus, Goldman in 2015 had 21 run stops, the most of any defensive lineman, and was second only to Jarvis Jenkins with 18 QB hurries, while his 4.5 sacks were the most of any interior defender. He clearly played well at 340, so will he have the same impact at 325?
Goldman and the Bears believe so.
“I'm moving faster," Goldman said. "[It increases] my foot-quickness and it helps with your stamina, too.”
While all that may be true, was dropping 15 pounds necessary, especially following a rookie year in which Goldman was named to the PFWA's All-Rookie Team?
In a 3-4 base defense, the interior linemen are typically big, hulking defenders who can occupy blockers and fill gaps. A 325-pound player can do that for sure but Goldman was able to do that at 340 just fine, so why mess with a good thing?
When coaches start micromanaging players at this level, the results aren't always positive. The grass isn't always greener on the other side of the fence, especially when you've never seen what's on the other side of the fence.
Bottom line: we have no idea how Goldman will perform at 325. Will the weight loss compromise his ability to two-gap at the point of attack? Were those extra 15 pounds the key to his ability to anchor against the run?
Is this another example of Bears brass overthinking a good situation, as they did when they flat-out waived Matt Slauson, the club's most consistent offensive lineman?
Any artist will tell you, at a certain point you have to put the paintbrush down or you risk obstructing a piece of art that is already beautiful. Any musician will tell you that overproduction of an album is a bad thing and takes away from the essence of the music.
The Bears have made a number of questionable moves this off-season. From waiving Slauson, to letting Matt Forte walk, to ignoring the secondary in free agency, to drafting a paper thin edge rusher in the Top 10, to refusing to add competition at kicker, there are a number of reasons to be nervous about the decision making of the club's decision makers.
Yet, at the end of the day, Goldman doesn't fall in that category. In today's NFL the ability to move trumps a player's size, especially one who, on a good day, is already 325 pounds. Very few players, even nose tackles, can perform at a consistently high level at 340-plus pounds. That's just too much weight to move on an every-down basis and, as Goldman points out, it severely compromises their stamina and ability to stay on the field.
At 15 pounds lighter, Goldman should have better burst to get up-field after the quarterback, as well as increased agility to work down the line and make plays in pursuit. At 340, it's tough to do those things with any type of consistency.
Vince Wilfork is considered one of the most dominant nose tackles in NFL history and he's 6-3, 325 pounds. Goldman is 6-4, 325, so he's right in that Wilfork sweet spot. That should allow him to stay on the field longer and make more plays later in games.
The Bears defense will be heavily dependent this year on the play of Goldman, as he'll again serve as the centerpiece for the run defense. If Goldman and Akiem Hicks (6-4, 324) are unmovable up front, the club's new linebacker duo of Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan will have room to roam and make plays. That is absolutely crucial to the success of coordinator Vic Fangio's unit.
There are plenty of reasons to question some of the moves the Bears made this off-season but Goldman isn't one of those. A faster Goldman will be a better Goldman in 2016.