Akiem Hicks | Nick Williams
© Ron Chenoy | 2019 Sep 15
Akiem Hicks | Nick Williams © Ron Chenoy | 2019 Sep 15

After his three-tackle performance in Denver despite playing with an oblique injury, Eddie Goldman won the Bears' first-ever "Sweep the Sheds" Award, voted on by Bears coaches and awarded to the player whose contributions flew under the radar more than they should have.

The name comes from the book, "Legacy," the story of New Zealand's All Blacks rugby team, which mentions the importance of no one being too big to do the little things, such as sweeping.

It's fitting, then, that one of the Bears' largest men, who undoubtedly plays the position on defense generally earning the smallest recognition, is the first winner of the award. Goldman notched his first QB hurry Sunday and was extremely active in another stout showing by the Bears 'D.'

"Eddie's a man of few words and he's just one of those guys that comes in and does his job. It's a tough job," defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano explained Friday. "... You know he's big and he's strong and he's talented and all that stuff, and again he doesn't say much. But you don't see, stat-wise, it isn't always going to show up for those guys, but when you're in the right gap and you're getting knocked back and you're staying square and you're not getting cut out of your gap but you're making plays here and there and you're hustling and you're rushing the passer, you're pushing the pocket and then you're getting out and making plays on screens and things like that, he gives you everything he's got on every single down, and every day you get the same thing so it's not surprising to see him play that way on game day."

Indeed, the lynchpin of the NFL's No. 1 run defense a year ago might be underrated outside of Chicago, but his success surprises no one inside Halas Hall.

It's a tad different for career journeyman Nick Williams, the 29-year-old Samford product who was out of the league prior to signing with the Bears before the 2018 campaign.

Williams is Chicago's backup nose guard behind Goldman, earning the final DL spot ahead of former third-rounder Jonathan Bullard. He's beloved in the locker room and a more well-known quantity by his teammates but probably doesn't get recognized too often walking down the street, even in Chicago.

Perhaps that will soon change. After all, Williams has already dressed in as many games this season as he did all of last year, logging 44 snaps the first two weeks -- just two shy of his total last season.

And Williams is doing more than logging snaps on the Bears' No. 2 scoring 'D;' he recorded his first career sack Sunday,a key fourth quarter takedown while playing extensively in the absence of Bilal Nichols, who broke his hand and could be sidelined for a while but definitely Monday night in Washington.

"That's my guy. I got a soft spot," Pro Bowler DE Akiem Hicks, like Williams a late bloomer hailing from a tiny school and already on his third NFL team, said. "You have teammates and then you have friends and then you have lifelong friends. I feel like Nick is one of those guys because he just has this positive energy that just never stops. He's a great football player and a great teammate. Adding him to this defensive line room two years ago was a big step in how we've developed."

Indeed, having Williams to spell established stars in Goldman and Hicks and fast ascending Roy Robertson-Harris, and a D-line coach like Jay Rodgers who rotates his guys frequently, fosters confidence that Chicago will weather Nichols' absence.

"You saw that in Denver. We were prepared for situations like that. With Bilal going down, we all feel for him and we all have to take that moment and say, a guy's hurting a little bit, let me make sure that he's OK. But our next job is playing good football again and I think that Jay Rodgers, my position coach, was able to assess that situation like he has done many times before and get a nice rotation going so that the guys that are in are fresh and can play at their best."

Williams, like Hicks and Nichols and Roy Robertson-Harris, has taken a less conventional path to the Bears D-line room than Goldman, a former second-rounder and five-star prospect who won a national title at Florida State.

But the two big men share at least a couple things in common.

"Nobody knew that it was [Williams] first sack until today," revealed Hicks. "He tried to be really humble and really modest about it. That's a big experience to get your first sack. What we did talk about is that we need more celebration out of him. Because when you get those moments, you can't stall out. He's a good dancer, so I know he's gonna be able to pull some stuff together in the next couple weeks."

Who knows, with Nichols down and Williams' role expanding, he might also have to show his teammates his sweeping skills.