Every successful team – especially the ones who seemingly come out of nowhere – has rookies who perform beyond their pre-season expectations.
But coming into training camp, the Chicago Bears’ recent draft class didn’t project to have those types of early-impact players. Think about it: Mitch Trubisky, Adam Shaheen, Tarik Cohen, and Jordan Morgan are all guys who were drafted at positions which already had multiple players ahead of them on the depth chart. However, one member of the Bears’ 2017 Draft Class is making his push to earn a starting job: Eddie Jackson.
ESPN Chicago’s Jeff Dickerson writes that Eddie Jackson is making all the right moves to take Adrian Amos’ job as the team’s starting free safety.
Dickerson notes that Jackson has picked off several throws early during training camp, which earned him additional first-team reps. The fourth-round pick out of Alabama suffered through some brutal leg injuries in college, but showed some ball-hawking skills and playmaking ability in the Crimson Tide secondary (Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times recently made note of this possible trend). Jackson was taking first-team reps during Saturday’s public practice, and seemingly put himself in a position with a strong camp to replace Amos as a starter.
And if he keeps it up, it won’t be a matter of if, but when Jackson takes over.
Now, it’s not as though Amos will simply hand his job over to a rookie. The third-year pro out of Penn State has been a solid starter for two seasons, earning a 79.8 grade from Pro Football Focus as a rookie in 2015 and an 80.6 in his second season. Amos has proved to be a steady tackler, especially in the running game. Amos has racked up 111 tackles in two seasons from the safety position, but coming up with no interceptions in 31 games as a safety in a pass-happy league is a bit of a concern.
Still, the Bears opened themselves up to this possibility when the team passed on the top-rated safeties in the draft and missed out on signing the top tier of free agent safeties. Quintin Demps is the only free agent safety the team brought in, while Jackson is the only member of the secondary picked up by the Bears via the draft or as an undrafted free agent.
Jackson figures to contribute early (and often) as a punt returner, a role he thrived in while at Alabama. His next opportunity to stake a claim to a starting spot will come Saturday against the Arizona Cardinals, a team struggling to find consistency, production, and health out of its receivers not named Larry Fitzgerald.
If Jackson puts together another solid preseason performance and continues on his current path, he’ll be sitting atop the depth chart at two positions before we know it.