Bears defensive line coach Jay Rodgers has been selected by his peers as the 2018 NFL defensive line coach of the year.
Rodgers received the John Teerlinck Award last week at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. The award is named after a longtime assistant who is considered by many to be the best defensive line coach in NFL history.
“Anytime you receive recognition from the guys who do it on an every-day basis like you do, it’s special,” Rodgers told ChicagoBears.com. “It was really nice of those guys to think of our defensive line as being an elite group.”
In 2018, the defensive line helped the Bears win the NFC North title with a 12-4 record. The unit was part of a defense that led the NFL in points per game (17.7), takeaways (36), interceptions (27), interception return touchdowns (5), opponent passer rating (72.9) and rushing yards per game (80.0).
Top performers on the line included tackles Akiem Hicks and Bilal Nichols, nose tackle Eddie Goldman and ends Roy Robertson-Harris and Jonathan Bullard.
Rodgers has helped Hicks develop into one of the NFL’s best defensive linemen over the past three seasons. Hicks was voted to his first career Pro Bowl in 2018, leading the Bears with 12 tackles-for-loss while ranking second with 7.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and 16 quarterback hits. His numbers were even better in 2017 when he registered 8.5 sacks and 15 tackles-for-loss.
Goldman also excelled in 2018, compiling 40 tackles, three sacks, five tackles-for-loss, three quarterback hits and one fumble recovery.
Nichols was named to the ESPN.com NFL All-Rookie Team after recording 28 tackles, three sacks, five tackles-for-loss, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery while appearing in 14 games with six starts.
Robertson-Harris compiled 20 tackles, three sacks and three tackles-for-loss, while Bullard produced 18 tackles and three tackles-for-loss.
“A lot of people contributed in different ways,” Rodgers said. “And not just in the d-line room but the secondary and the linebackers because all that comes into play. We all came together as a group a year ago and just did our jobs and played well. That’s the standard right now and we’ve got to live up to that standard moving forward.”
Rodgers is entering his fifth season with the Bears and 11th in the NFL. Before arriving in Chicago, he spent six years with the Broncos as a coaches assistant (2009-10), defensive quality control coach (2011) and defensive line coach (2012-14).
Rodgers is excited about helping a Bears team that has 21 of 22 starters under contract build off last season’s success. But he isn’t taking anything for granted.
“What’s exciting is we do have the same players and we know they can all play at a high level,” Rodgers said. “It’s just a matter of starting from scratch again because every year is different. What you’ve done a year ago does not count in any way, shape or form in what you do in the upcoming year. It’s a clean slate.”