Given the buzz surrounding QB Mitch Trubisky (and whether or not he’d take a much-needed, second-year jump), it became easy to lose sight of others who are already doing it. So let’s buck that trend and talk about Bears safety Eddie Jackson, whose 90.6 grade from Pro Football Focus makes him the NFL’s highest-graded player at the position:
The highest graded safeties in the NFL so far this season. pic.twitter.com/yHIDODmS57
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) November 8, 2018
While opinions on Trubisky’s development vary, there is no uncertainty regarding Jackson, who’s most definitely leaps and bounds better than he was during his rookie season. And that’s really saying something, because Jackson was one of football’s most productive safeties in 2017!
The fourth-round pick was a starter from the get-go, a difference-maker in coverage as the youngest player in the Bears’ secondary, a ball-hawk, a turnover machine, and a willing tackler against the run in his first year in The Show. Fast forward to the mid-way point of Jackson’s second season and he is still all that … but better.
To say Jackson is doing it all would be an under-sell, but I’m not sure how to properly encapsulate how great he’s been without being over-the-top – that’s how good he’s been this season.
Jackson’s 89.8 coverage grade is the best among active safeties, only injured Seahawks star Earl Thomas (90.6) has been better this season. And Jackson is no slouch against the run, either. The 85.7 run defense grade is the best among safeties and the 10th best among all defensive backs.
The Bears haven’t had a ball-hawking safety since Mike Brown was roaming the secondary and the revolving door of players who have tried to replace him had left us feeling grim over the years. Images of opposing receivers torching Chicago defenders prior to Jackson’s arrival are ingrained in our memories, but Jackson’s play the last two years is doing wonders and bringing us fresh footage of turning defense into offense.
Take this play against the Bills for example:
3rd and 9
— Cover 1 (@Cover_1_) November 8, 2018
The combination of instincts, closing speed, and playmaking ability to take the ball away and take it to the house isn’t something the Bears have had in their secondary in recent years. It’s a welcome change from defensive backs who struggled to do any one of those things well, let alone all of them in one motion.
From the it’s-not-hyperbole-if-it’s-true department, Jackson is doing historically great things for the Bears’ defense:
— NFL345 (@NFL345) November 4, 2018
And to think, he might be only scratching the surface of his skills.
Maybe it’s just for show or possibly it’s because he has nothing left to prove as a safety, but the Bears tossed Jackson into the offensive side of things:
#Bears film — Safety Eddie Jackson gets a snap on offense in 3Q. Goes in motion for possible handoff and then comes back around after snap. Ended up being a handoff to Cohen, but there are options here.
Nagy: “Just a little fun. We’ll see where it goes.” pic.twitter.com/fedOLcoIjt
— Adam Hoge (@AdamHoge) November 5, 2018
Oh, you better believe we will see where it goes, Coach Nagy, because I have a feeling “it” goes to the end zone at some point.
The Bears haven’t sent a safety to the Pro Bowl since 2001, but that is bound to change. We thought Adrian Amos’ breakout year might have been worth a deeper look, but safeties on teams with losing records are going to get over-looked, if not ignored entirely. But the Bears are winning, the defense is thriving, and Jackson is making highlight-reel plays. If he continues to play at this level, the Bears’ Pro Bowl drought will end this winter.