Why Eddie Goldman’s growth is a major key to Bears’ defensive line strength

Currently on roster: 10

Projected on final roster: 6.

Roster locks: Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Jonathan Bullard.

Good bets: Jaye Howard.

On the bubble: Mitch Unrein, John Jenkins, Roy Robertson-Harris, C.J. Wilson.

Practice squad candidates: Rashaad Coward.

Camp depth: Kapron Lewis-Moore.

Biggest offseason developments: The Bears signed John Jenkins to a one-year, $900,000 deal in March. … The Bears signed Jaye Howard to a one-year, $775,000 deal in May.

What to like: The Bears’ 2016 dice roll on Akiem Hicks paid dividends. After signing a two-year, $10 million deal in March of last year, Hicks emerged as the most consistent difference maker on the defense. His 71 tackles, seven sacks and two forced fumbles offered proof of his productivity. But what may have surprised coaches and teammates most was Hicks’ durability. Not only did he start all 16 games, but he wound up playing 86.6 percent of the defensive snaps, continually active with no noticeable dip in his play.

At Halas Hall, the film review of Hicks’ 2016 season was positive with the 336-pounder consistently showing his ability to push the pocket. Hicks now is entering a contract year and, at 27, seems like a prime candidate for an early extension.

His snap count may drop if the Bears can remain healthy and establish a reliable rotation. But there’s optimism in Lake Forest that Hicks has positioned himself to build on last year’s standout season.

Biggest question: Can Eddie Goldman stay on the field enough to have a significant breakthrough in his third season?

The timing of Goldman’s 2016 high ankle sprain — the fourth quarter of the Bears’ second game — proved frustrating. Goldman missed the next six contests and 10 overall and never had a real chance to continue the ascent that had been envisioned for him when the season began.

Before the injury, Goldman’s growth had begun to show. He had trimmed down from his rookie season and…

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