The Chicago Bears surprised anyone who was paying attention to the NFL Draft when the team drafted only one defensive back in a draft that was supposed to be loaded with talented defenders.
Yet, that one selection – Alabama safety Eddie Jackson – could develop into a difference-maker in a secondary that needs one (OK, maybe two or three) to show up on a weekly basis once the season gets rolling. Pro Football Focus’ Daniel Cohen believes Jackson should help a new-look Bears defensive backfield.
To say Bears safeties struggled in 2016 would be a massive understatement … and something we could apply to each safety tandem the team has employed for the better part of the last decade. Bears safeties allowed nine touchdowns in 2016. Only the Colts (10) allowed more. Chicago’s starting safeties were victimized often by opposing passing attacks. Quarterbacks targeting Adrian Amos posted a 127.9 rating. Harold Jones-Quartey, who played the second most coverage snaps among Bears safeties in 2016, allowed a 125.1 passer rating.
OK. So maybe the Bears should have done a little bit more to address what was a very porous secondary.
This is where Jackson – if healthy – can project to be a difference-maker. The cornerback-turned-safety was targeted only 11 times in seven games before his season-ending broken leg, and opposing quarterbacks posted a passer rating of 38.8 in those games. And over the last three years, it was a combined rating of 65.0.
It’s not as if Jackson doesn’t come with his own set of risks; specifically, an ACL injury in 2014 that preceded his broken leg in 2016. Leg injuries for players at the safety position are red flags, but the Bears thought highly enough of the player and his medical records were good enough to gain clearance and allow the team to move up in the fourth round to draft their safety.
Despite not addressing the cornerback position through the draft, no position group has seen as much turnover this offseason than the secondary. In addition to drafting Jackson in the fourth round, the Bears signed free agent cornerbacks Marcus Cooper, Prince Amukamara, and B.W. Webb, and safety Quintin Demps. So while head coach John Fox might lament not going after young, impact talent with potential, GM Ryan Pace provided veterans with high floors (and albeit, low ceilings), who are plug-and-play defenders right away for a coach who is trying to avoid his third straight losing season in Chicago.
And then there’s Jackson, who should help at a position of dire need. So while Amos is currently locked into the starting spot next to Demps at safety, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if a healthy Jackson comes through to make a push for increased playing time because his skill set directly combats the one area Bears pass defenders struggled in the most.