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Bears Notes: Eddie Goldman Gets A Big Chance

By Chris Emma--

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) -- When the Bears drafted Eddie Goldman with their second-round pick earlier this year, it was with an eye to the future.

A Florida State standout, Goldman would be asked to be the Bears' nose tackle of the future, eventually becoming the centerpiece of Vic Fangio's 3-4 defense. Eventually was the key word -- until news broke Monday that defensive lineman Jeremiah Ratliff had been suspended for the first three games of the season for pleading guilty to DWI in a case from 2013.

Now, the Bears will be counting on Goldman to step in as the anchor of their defense.

"He's coming along nicely," Ratliff said of Goldman. "I guess the positive thing is the younger guys get a lot more experience, a lot more reps, and they have an opportunity to really get better and establish themselves. Part of my job is to help him in doing that, and that's what I'm going to do."

Goldman has assumed Ratliff's place lined against the center, getting looks at Chicago's first-team offense. Saturday's preseason contest in Cincinnati -- the dress rehearsal game -- will provide yet another proving ground for Goldman.

Fortunately for the Bears, they were ready for Ratliff's suspension and have been able to get Goldman acclimated with his role.

"I definitely feel a lot more comfortable than when I first started out, because just repetition," Goldman said. "The vets take me under their wings and teach me certain things about the game, it just allows me to play better, play faster."

Ever since Goldman first took to the practice field with the Bears, Ratliff has been there to help. The 11-year veteran has helped his rookie teammate along, something unique for Goldman, who looked up to Ratliff's talents as a nose tackle.

What has Goldman garnered from Ratliff?

"His consistency, how physical he is, and how he literally takes this as a job," Goldman said. "This is what he does, and he's so detailed in what he does."

Goldman doesn't see the Ratliff suspension as changing his approach. He's still working the same way, keeping the same mindset. The only difference is he'll be counted on to start come Week 1 against Green Bay.

"I'm just focused on getting out there and playing with the team," Goldman said. "I don't look at it any differently."

Defense making strikes

John Fox has observed the Bears' learning curve from their humble beginnings in OTAs to this point, weeks into the preseason.

Every day is a growing process as the Bears adapt to their new schemes and coaches. Overall, Fox is pleased with what he's seen, especially the defense.

"They're learning it," Fox said of the defense. "We're not a well-oiled machine by any stretch at this point, but I see progress."

One of the most important pieces of the defense is how several former defensive ends adjust to playing linebacker, including taking on duties in coverage.

Jared Allen seemed effective in the Bears' win over the Colts last, Lamarr Houston has shown greater comfort and Willie Young looks marginally better.

Pernell McPhee also appears to be the experienced outside linebacker that general manager Ryan Pace hoped he could find.

"I thought we progressed a week ago," Fox said of the outside linebackers. "I'm anxious to see how we do in Cincinnati this week."

The Bears' biggest question marks seem to be at cornerback. Tim Jennings is locked into a spot, while Kyle Fuller hasn't done much to take a step forward entering his second year in the league. Behind those two, there's Sherrick McManis, Tracy Porter and Alan Ball, none of whom have solidified a spot.

"They're working hard," Fox said of the cornerbacks. "We're getting to know them. We're trying to rotate guys through to get a good evaluation. We'll try to get a good evaluation and make a good decision when we pick the 53. They've flashed, and I think they're getting better."

The Bears surrendered 27.6 points per game last season, second-worst in the league, while allowing 377.1 yards per game, third-worst in the NFL. That was under the leadership of Mel Tucker, no longer employed in Chicago.

Fangio's unit is showing greater comfort in the new defense. More importantly, it's getting to the backfield and disrupting plays early in the preseason.

Langford standing out

Twice in Saturday's preseason win at Lucas Oil Stadium, Jeremy Langford showed what he can do.

First, he took a zone-read handoff 46 yards down the middle of the field, beating a Colts safety. Then, he finished a drive by improvising on a broken play and taking it the two yards into the end zone. Langford showed his speed, physical play and all-around skills.

The rookie running back is seeing the NFL game become more natural.

"It's getting slower for me now, but it's still fast," Langford said.

A Michigan State product, Langford seems to be sitting in position for an important role. The Bears have utilized the rookie in key spots during these two exhibitions, and Langford has earned the respect.

"He's a fast guy," Fox said of Langford. "A good guy, obviously, we thought enough of to draft. He has good vision and he's getting used to the pro game, but I like where he is right now."

During the offseason, Langford's first as a pro, he learned work ethic from Bears veteran running back Matt Forte.

On the practice field, Langford is following the lead of Forte while taking plenty from his running backs coach, Stan Drayton, who previously worked at Ohio State. Langford has taken away a solid approach for every day in the NFL.

"I've really learned how to be a professional," he said. "I feel like I'm getting that more, coming from college."

Extra points: Receivers Alshon Jeffery (calf) and Marquess Wilson (hamstring) were held out of practice, as was McPhee (chest) ... Tackle Jermon Bushrod (back) left practice early and didn't return ... The Bears return to the practice field at Halas Hall on Wednesday.

Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.

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