Prior to the start of the 2017 season, both safety positions had been a revolving door of disappointment for the Chicago Bears. But now, things appear to be heading in the right direction, and rookie Eddie Jackson is a big reason why.
Bleacher Report’s NFL1000 scouting team thought highly enough of Jackson’s contributions as a rookie to rank him as the NFL’s 19th best strong safety in 2017.
And while there could be a point of contention that Jackson and Adrian Amos (BR’s top-rated free safety) should have had their positions swapped, it’s worth pointing out that Vic Fangio uses his safeties in interchangeable roles. Versatility and ability are of the utmost importance in Fangio’s defense, and both Amos and Jackson proved they could make plays against the run as well as defend the pass. No matter which position at which either was technically lined up in 2017, both thrived … and that’s great news for the Bears moving forward.
Jackson was an impact player throughout his rookie season.
He came away with five turnovers (two interceptions, three fumble recoveries) and forced a fumble in a season in which he started all 16 games. He provided a playmaking presence in the secondary that hadn’t been seen in Chicago since Mike Brown was lining up in the defensive backfield. He provided highlight-reel caliber game-changing plays on several occasions, including a pick-six of Cam Newton and a fumble recovery touchdown in a win against the Carolina Panthers – a performance that made him the NFC’s Defensive Player of the Week, a well-deserved award considering he provided all the offense the Bears needed to beat the Panthers that Sunday.
And again, he was prolific. Not only did Jackson start all 16 games, he was in on 99.7 percent of the team’s defensive plays. Jackson led the Bears defense in snaps played and only 27 defensive backs were in on more plays than Jackson’s 1,055 last season. That kind of durability wasn’t expected after having a few seasons at Alabama cut short due to injuries.
Speaking of which, Jackson also proved to be fully recovered from the leg injury that ended his final season at Alabama, showing above average cover skills and displaying the kind of speed that allows him to make big plays in coverage. Those elements had been absent in the Bears secondary for so long, that I’d almost forgotten what it looks like.
He was even a willing defender against the run and proved to be a better tackler than scouts gave him credit for prior to his rookie season. Though, he could improve on the kinds of angles he takes to bring down backs so he won’t need to be as reliant on his elite speed.
In any case, the future is bright for Jackson, and we fully expect to see him climb up the rankings when we re-visit them this time next year.