Last week was an unfortunate anticlimax as Eddie Goldman wasn’t able to play due to a knee injury. Once again he was limited in practice to start this week. Smart money says that barring a setback, the nose tackle will finally make his return to the field on Sunday. His first regular season appearance since the end of 2019. What makes it even better is the timing.
The Chicago Bears are about to face arguably their toughest opponent yet of the 2021 season. The Cleveland Browns are fresh off a big year a season ago. One where they went 11-5 and nearly took down the mighty Chiefs in Kansas City in the divisional round. They have talent up and down their roster with Myles Garrett on defense and Baker Mayfield on offense. Yet if anybody talks about that offense, it always starts with three words.
The running game.
Cleveland was 3rd in the NFL in rushing last season. They’re 3rd so far in 2021 as well. Nick Chubb is considered one of the five best running backs in the NFL and Kareem Hunt, a former Pro Bowler, is his backup. It is easily the best one-two combination in the league. Combined with a strong offensive line? It isn’t difficult to understand why teams have struggled to stop the Browns.
Could the Bears be the first team to challenge it? Through two weeks, they have the 5th-best run defense in the NFL. They allowed 74 yards in the opener to the Rams and 69 to the Bengals last week. That was without Goldman in the lineup who is their best run stuffer. Now that he is set to return? They will be at full strength right when it will be needed the most.
Eddie Goldman has helped stall great running games before
The Los Angeles Rams had the #3 running game in 2018. Chicago held them to 52 yards. In 2019, the Vikings had the #6 running game. The Bears held them to 40 yards in the first meeting. Even last year without Goldman, they held the mighty Derrick Henry and the Tennessee Titans to just 92 yards rushing. People continue to underestimate just how good this defensive line is, and it’s about to get better.
Eddie Goldman returning is a huge boost to their run defense. Meanwhile, Mario Edwards Jr. is also coming back from a two-game suspension. So that will help their pass rush. One that just got done sacking Joe Burrow four times last week. It seems possible this group hasn’t played their best game yet. A terrifying thought for opposing offenses. Cleveland will be a huge proving ground for them.
Even if Justin Fields will steal all the attention.
Much of this will hinge on health for the Browns as well. Two of their best offensive linemen are dealing with injuries. Left tackle Jedrick Willis has an ankle issue while center J.C. Tretter has missed practice with a knee problem. Even if both end up playing, that group isn’t at 100%. If the Goldman from two years ago is there on Sunday, the Bears might be able to control the line of scrimmage.