Pro Football Focus lists Bears safety Eddie Jackson as its highest-graded safety through the first three weeks of the 2018 season, which is an accomplishment that shouldn’t be overlooked or taken likely.
I mean, just check out the names Chicago’s second-year safety finds himself hanging around:
The Seahawks have two of the top safeties in the NFL through three weeks. pic.twitter.com/uRzT9ZexbZ
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) September 26, 2018
If you recall, Jackson was one of those rare rookies who could step in and make an impact from Day 1, and now, it’s fair to say he’s been the kind of well-rounded safety the Bears have been searching for since, I don’t know, let’s say the dawn of time. (OK, it hasn’t been that long … but it certainly feels that way.)
The Bears drafted Jackson in the fourth round last season, with eyes on improving a secondary that lacked speed, playmaking ability, and the skills needed to come away with interceptions. Jackson was a ballhawking safety at Alabama who used his speed and instincts to make plays in the open field. So it’s no surprise to see him own PFF’s fourth-best coverage grade (84.5) after three games this year. Look no further than Jackson’s interception of Sam Bradford for what high-end safety play against the pass looks like:
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) September 23, 2018
It’s not a great throw from Bradford, but Jackson reads it, reacts on it, and makes the play. This is the kind of things great safeties do. It’s not an accident that Jackson has six takeaways in 19 career games. The guy has a nose for the ball, a flair for the dramatic, and an ability to make things happen in crunch time. And no, I’m not going to pretend that Jackson’s game-sealing pick-six didn’t happen just because Khalil Mack happened to be offsides. That was an awesome play that deserves credit, even if it didn’t “count” on the box score.
And just when you thought Jackson couldn’t get better, it turns out he’s improved on what was once perceived to be his biggest weakness. Jackson checks in with the 14th best run-defense grade (72.8) among the 82 players qualified for the leaderboard. That’s a major improvement for a player who some scouts believed wasn’t a willing or able tackler in that phase of the game. So much for that.
Earl Thomas and Bradley McDougald are teammates in Seattle who happen to form football’s best safety tandem. Green Bay’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is rounding back into form after a down year in 2017. And emerging as a rookie is Derwin James of the Los Angeles Chargers. Without diving too deep into what makes this collection of safeties great, just know that this is great company for Jackson to keep.
It’s impossible to judge a draft class after only 19 games, but getting premium contributions from a pair of fourth round picks like Jackson and running back Tarik Cohen as part of the early returns has to be viewed as a positive sign for GM Ryan Pace. Now, if only the team can get its first-round pick from that class producing at another level ….