After watching Josh Jacobs gash the Bears defensive line and carry the Raiders to victory, it’s encouraging to see help could be on the way after the bye week.
Bears Head Coach Matt Nagy told reporters that defensive end Bilal Nichols is “very close” to returning to the lineup, which would help right the ship as far as the run defense game is concerned. Should Nichols get a club for protection of his right hand, it is possible he could step into the lineup as soon as the first game after the bye.
“It can be hard as a D-lineman when you’ve got to try to grab somebody, so we’ll see,” Nagy said, via Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times. “But I’m excited. It feels like a little while since he’s been out. But you get guys hurt, and hopefully this bye week can come at a good time.”
Nichols missed the last three games after suffering a broken hand in Chicago’s Week 2 win at Denver. And while the Bears stifled the ground games of Washington and Minnesota in the first two weeks of his absence, it was wrong to think it could last forever. The major hurdle to clear could be getting fitted for a club (much like Leonard Floyd did to start last season) then learning how to play with it. We saw Floyd struggle to find his footing as a pass-rusher coming off the edge in the early stages of club life, but was still a solid defender against the run.
The timing would be great to get a starting defensive lineman back in the mix. Alvin Kamara (Saints), Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekler (Chargers), Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders (Eagles), Kerryon Johnson (Lions), and Todd Gurley (Rams) are among the running backs the Bears will face over their next five games. Slowing that collection of rushers won’t be easy, but Nichols’ presence could help provide some push-back as Chicago tries to re-gain its stronghold of the line of scrimmage after the bye.