Eddie Goldman knew what he was signing up for as an NFL nose guard: all guts, no glory. So, even as dominant as he was last season as the anchor of the NFL’s best run ‘D,’ the 25-year-old understands why his unique skill set might not command the attention it deserves — especially in the middle of a star-studded unit with Pro Bowlers at all three levels.
And, like former teammate Jay Cutler, Goldman cares not for the pub, anyway. After all, he’s fresh off what he calls, “collectively, as a team” the best professional season of his career thus far, on the heels of signing a four-year contract extension with $25 million guaranteed that made him the fifth-highest-paid nose guard in football.
Still, Goldman offered some simple advice for those who might not understand what an underrated two-way player he is: “Just watch me,” he told Pro Football Weekly on Wednesday.
Last season’s viewing included Goldman starting all 16 regular-season games —plus his first-ever playoff appearance — for the first time and setting career highs with 27 run stops and 28 total QB pressures, totaling 40 tackles (including five for loss and three sacks).
We watched — or often marveled at — Goldman’s immovable presence in the run game, not to mention marked strides getting after the quarterback. But few have a better vantage point at the destructiveness Goldman wreaks than LB Roquan Smith — and we asked the linebacker to describe it.
“I feel like, [Danny and I], we have the best inside linebacker job in the league with those two [Goldman and Akiem Hicks] in front of us. It's definitely sweet having two premier players like that. It's sweet. I can't really say much, but I definitely appreciate those guys.”
Suffice to say, the sight of Goldman in front of opposing ball carriers and quarterbacks is more sour than sweet. But apparently not for James Daniels, the second-year Bear pivoting from left guard to center this season, whom Goldman told us is more than handling his business as the two tussle daily in the trenches.
“He’s doing good, man,” Goldman said. “He has a strong lower body, drives off the ball. … I think he’s a great player. He’s smart. He’s always running the show out there with the O-line, and he’s just a strong player.”
Indeed, Daniels has grown and matured rapidly, same as Goldman. And practice battles, draft slots (both were the 39th overall pick in their respective classes) and quick rises aren’t the only thing the two share — they’re both unusually young in the NFL.
Daniels won’t turn 22 until Week 2 of his second season. A fifth-year vet, Goldman celebrated his 25th birthday in January. For comparison, the Bears’ other Eddie, All-Pro S Eddie Jackson, is a month older than Goldman despite being drafted two years later.
It’s no wonder Goldman, in the middle of arguably the NFL’s most talented defense, says he’s only scratching the surface.
It definitely motivates me to up my game,” he says of the six teammates on defense to earn Pro Bowl recognition last season. “I feel like I can always get better … I have yet to have my best season.
It’s a belief shared by Goldman’s longtime D-line coach Jay Rodgers.
“We aspire to be great at everything we do — run game, pass game,” he says of Goldman’s evolution. “Obviously, the goal is to win games as a team, but on the way you develop yourself. If you develop yourself into a Pro Bowl-caliber player, you’re going to help the team.”
Goldman’s goal to continue helping the Bears’ hungry defense is personally feasting a bit less and maintaining his weight “after it crept up there” to 327 pounds last season. Granted, that’s only two pounds above his current weight of 325 — and nine below the 336 he weighed at the combine more than five years ago — but it’s a big emphasis for the big man, apparent in the way he finished his conditioning drills prior to our visit.
The increased conditioning to end practice with the season nearing isn’t only for Goldman but the entire starting defense, with Matt Nagy explaining it’s to help replace the preseason reps he’s giving almost exclusively to the backups.
How does Goldman’s body feel late in his second camp under Nagy, whose unorthodox preseason playtime approach is gaining traction around the league?
“Football is just a game of owies. You’re not going to feel 100 percent,” he says. “You always go out there and try to do your job, but at the end of the day you’re sore. I wouldn’t say I feel 100 percent good, but I’m healthy.”
Clearly. We’ve been watching.