Chicago Bears: Bilal Nichols primed for a breakout season

Bilal Nichols is ready to breakthrough with a full-time role with the Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears found a gem in the 5th round of the 2018 NFL draft in Bilal Nichols, formerly of the University of Delaware. Nichols had a commendable rookie season playing in a rotational role. Now in year two, he should anchor the other side of the Bears’ base three-man front.

Nichols surpassed former undrafted free agent Roy Robertson-Harris and former third-round pick Jonathan Bullard by the end of his rookie season. He earned six starts in 14 games on the NFL’s fiercest defense. He also outplayed his fellow down linemen (not named Akiem Hicks) on the stat line earning 28 tackles, five tackles for losses, two forced fumbles, and five quarterback stuffs. These are impressive numbers for a late-round pick from a small school.

He now enters year two with a full offseason of training with a professional organization. The training, the preparation, and even the mental focus are completely different. He is now educated in the Chicago way but more importantly the defensive nuances that make good players great. He should not only be the starter opposite Akiem Hicks but also should be a disruptive force with Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd on his outside shoulder.

Every drafted player is at a certain disadvantage due to the NFL Draft process and subsequent pro day preparations. The focus turns towards the specific testing to impress NFL front offices with the individual athletic ability not necessarily football skills. Many players attend combine centric camps and training facilities to improve their draft stock. Athletic ability reigns supreme in the NFL.

The 6’4″ 304 pound Nichols certainly demonstrated his athletic ability at his size. He clocked a 4.95-second 40-yard dash while registering 29 reps in the bench press. His three-cone drill was also amongst top 10 performers for defensive lineman. Now, it is back to football. The Bears began the voluntary off-season workout in their new facility April 15.

At the very least the Delaware alum can gain success through osmosis from none other than the Reigning Coach of the Year and fellow Blue Hen, Matt Nagy. The Blue Hens tend to be an underrated football power in the Football Championship Subdivision. They have produced several stars in recent history like Joe Flacco (Ravens), Nick Boyle (Ravens), and the most recent 2019 second-round pick Nasir Adderley (Chargers). Nichols is the next in line of great Blue Hens to turn heads on Sundays.