The Bears went into Denver and came out with a thrilling (or about as thrilling as you can get for a preseason game) victory in the Mile High City on Saturday night, by a score of 24-23. Overall, the defense held their own in this contest, save for a rough patch for the second stringers against Broncos quarterbacks Case Keenum and Chad Kelly.
Upon further review of the contest, that is every play on the defensive side of the ball for the Bears, I came away with multiple observations and reached a few conclusions that I may have missed had I merely watched the game live. Some will definitely matter to the 2018 season’s success and/or have great ramifications on who makes the final 53-man roster.
Here is what I learned after breaking down game tape of the Bears’ defense against the Broncos.
Goldman’s impact in the passing game transcends the stat sheet
It did not take long for me to notice the impact that Bears defensive tackle Eddie Goldman had on this football game.
It took four defensive plays, to be exact.
Everybody who follows the Bears should know of Goldman’s prowess in the run game, which has been proven over the past few years. What they may not know is that he helps the team’s pass rush by doing non-glamorous work that doesn’t show up in the box score at the end of the day.
In the second play of the game, Denver has the brilliant idea to run a flea flicker – a trick play that teams now have tape on and can prepare for – in a preseason game. It actually worked quite well but there were two problems.
The first (but less significant) issue was Sam Acho‘s outside rush, beating the tight end Jake Butt off the edge. However, Butt did a nice job keeping his hands on Acho and running him further into the backfield despite being defeated to the outside in order to allow Case Keenum to step up in the pocket. Once he does this, he runs into a much larger problem – figuratively and literally.
As soon as Keenum steps up, he meets Eddie Goldman. How did Goldman get there, you may ask? He set up a spin move, which is mightily impressive for a man of his stature, with a swim move. The swim attempt got the center to take a large step to his right, at which point Goldman took advantage and spun the other way. By the time Keenum throws, Goldman is exactly five yards past the line of scrimmage, which is crucial for a pass rush even if he doesn’t beat him clean with a spin move like that. He proceeds to put a monstrous hit on Keenum, making it so he can’t adequately step into the throw and forcing an incompletion to a wide open receiver.
On the very next play, we see an example of Goldman forcing another incompletion – but with his powerful legs, not his crafty maneuvers.
Much of what makes Goldman so valuable to the Bears’ defense is his ability to take on two blockers in both the run and pass games. This time he does just that and actually drives his men back six yards beyond the line of scrimmage, forcing Keenum to sail yet another open receiver because he can’t step up in the pocket or into his throw. This is the most important thing an interior pass rusher does – collapsing the pocket and making things A. Uncomfortable for the QB and B. Easier for the edge rushers to get to him. Very few linemen are better at this than Eddie Goldman (and the scary thing for opposing offenses is that Akiem Hicks is one of them).
To prove my point further, here is the very next defensive play, with Goldman standing on the sidelines. Focus on the distance between the interior rushers and the blue line of scrimmage, and Keenum’s mechanics in comparison to the prior two clips.
I rest my case.
I touched on Kasim Edebali, a low-fanfare June signing, in my “Four Takeaways” article from last week against the Bengals. I paid extra attention to him on Saturday night and in my re-watch this week, and I came away mightily impressed with what I saw from him, and more specifically, his explosiveness.
This play by Edebali, who is the outside backer on the left side, doesn’t seem like much on first glance. But watch how he takes a step back to give the appearance of dropping into coverage and then proceeds to rush on a delayed blitz.
Notice how Edebali shifts his body weight so quickly and delivers a strike forceful enough to drive former first round pick, starting left tackle, and certified large human being Garrett Bolles almost into the quarterback. Edebali didn’t change anything on that play (Keenum just missed an open man) but it’s a great sign that he showed movement ability that could help a team in September.
First of all with this clip: how is this not holding? Bolles grabbed Edebali’s outer shoulder pad jersey and took him down. That’s textbook holding and it’s embarrassing that it wasn’t called.
But to draw that should-be holding, Edebali set up a perfect spin move, this time faking an outside bull rush and flashing lightning quick movement to the inside.
Besides the quickness, this play was significant because it shows that Edebali, a veteran player, knows how to work a tackle with a flurry of one move and the come back with a counter. He flashed the bull rush all throughout the first half and when the time was right, he cut it back inside with a spin that against many tackles or with many refs would have been a very positive play for the Bears’ defense.
Speaking of a variety of moves, here Edebali shows one of my favorites (not to do because I don’t have near enough speed but to watch): the dip. Essentially it’s a speed rush with a twist. The rusher quickly lowers his pad level to evade the offensive tackle and bursts past him to get to the quarterback quickly.
Edebali executes this to perfection here, leaving Paxton Lynch no chance whatsoever and showcasing his speed off the edge.
You may now be thinking “it’s the fourth quarter of an exhibition game, of course he can blow past some undrafted scrub who will be cut in 2 weeks.” I had that immediate reaction too and almost was just going to leave that play out of my film breakdown, but the Broncos’ announcer said that the man Edebali beat is expected to be their swing tackle. That’s a real NFL player he beat cleanly and it’s one of the reasons, judging by everything I’ve seen so far in preseason, why Edebali should make the final 53-man roster.
Other Notes from film study:
–The backup members of the secondary, specifically Doran Grant and Kevin Tolliver, did not play well. They didn’t get much help from their pass rush against Chad Kelly but he was getting the ball away rather quickly and completing passes on both cornerbacks – or drawing a blatantly obvious pass interference penalty against Grant.
-While Edebali impressed, Kylie Fitts and Isaiah Irving did not. Both struggled to put together anything resembling an arsenal of pass rush moves.
-Not Bears-related but I have no clue what got Paxton Lynch drafted in the first round (he was the year before I started doing serious NFL draft scouting and analysis). He’s awful.
–Bilal Nichols and Roy Robertson-Harris stood out to me much more than Jonathan Bullard. The latter can be so explosive in spurts but the Robertson-Harris and Nichols are much more complete players and should receive ample playing time over the former third round pick.
Low point: Eddie Jackson what on earth is this?
Eddie Jackson is a fine ballhawking safety who could (will, in my opinion) develop into something much better than “fine.” However, his effort/technique on this tackle attempt is nothing short of abysmal.
He’s essentially standing straight up as he tries to bring down Broncos tight end Jeff Heuerman, resulting in Jackson being driven back a good seven yards, turning a very short gain by Heuerman into a much longer one. Forget eyes to the thighs technique, Jackson’s pad level was above the ballcarrier’s, a cardinal sin in tackling.
High point: Cre’Von LeBlanc with the PEANUT PUNCH to seal the deal
This play was a combination of situational awareness, hustle, and violent technique. LeBlanc knows the score (watch and learn, JR), the time left on the clock, and where Denver is on the field. The Bears are up by one, with about a minute remaining, and Denver was just inside the 40.
This situation means one thing: if a turnover does not happen, the Broncos (especially with the thin mountain air in Denver) would likely have kicked a field goal to take the lead and win the ballgame. LeBlanc initially gets walled off of the screen pass but as #46 Nick Orr grabs onto the receiver’s foot and holds on, LeBlanc hustles around the block and aggressively punches the ball out of his grasp, Peanut Tillman style, to seal the win.
That’s all for this week. Tune in for more film breakdowns in the coming days and weeks as we head closer to the regular season.
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