Eddie Jackson is trending in the wrong direction, and last night didn’t do anything to change perceptions that got pretty ugly last year.
Going through an interception drought is one thing. Let’s be real. Intercepting passes isn’t something that is entirely predictable or entirely within a player’s control. You can’t make a play on the ball in the air if it isn’t thrown (or thrown in your direction). But tackling, that is something that is in a player’s control. And after last night’s troubles, the online football community brought out some receipts that couldn’t have come at a worse time for Jackson:
“Everybody can tackle.” – Eddie Jackson, 2021pic.twitter.com/64k4t8IAr5
— BDR Bradley (@BDRBradley1) September 13, 2021
— Da Justin Fields TailGate Show ™️ (@DaTailGateShow) September 10, 2021
Eddie Jackson getting caught on-mic saying “tackling isn’t important” was probably the worst thing that could’ve possibly happened to him. Have no idea why the Bears posted that lol.
— Robert Schmitz (@robertkschmitz) September 13, 2021
For the sake of fairness and context, Jackson is only the latest in a line of defensive backs who believe their money-maker is picking off passes and forcing turnovers. So this type of commentary isn’t uncommon from players in the secondary. And it certainly isn’t exclusive to Jackson. Take Deion Sanders as an example. Sanders had a Hall of Fame career due to ballhawking. It sure as heck wasn’t his ability (or willingness) to put a hit on a ball-carrier. And for whatever it’s worth, Jackson certainly WAS creating takeaways at a dizzying pace for the first few years of his career. So … I get it. But what we saw last night sure ain’t it.
The combination of bad angles, effort, and execution was out there for all to see. This can’t happen. Not on opening night in prime-time with a nationally-televised audience tuned in. It certainly shouldn’t happen for a veteran of this defense. Definitely not someone, whose elite abilities at the peak of this defense’s powers made him a core member of the group. And undoubtedly not for someone with his player pedigree and résumé that suggests things shouldn’t be this bad.
And if that “tackling isn’t important” mindset is pushing things all the way to the other ledger and leading to what we saw, then that line of thinking needs to be thrown into a wastebasket. Because this team can’t have this group of defenders playing that poorly. That isn’t the standard they set, and it’s not one players, coaches, or fans will accept.
So, what’s next for Jackson? An immediate trip to film study dissecting Sunday’s efforts should be at the top of the to-do list. After that, some research on what was working for him from 2017-19. Don’t look at the 2020 tape. Because even though it would be easy to wipe away that year due to any number of external factors, what we saw in Week 1 in 2021 was looking a lot like what we saw for 17 games last year.
From a long-term perspective, the Bears are stuck with Jackson. Now, being “stuck” with a 27-year-old who possesses All-Pro potential isn’t the worst thing. But after restructuring Jackson’s deal last offseason, it becomes difficult to part ways any time soon because of the accompanying dead cap hit. Even in a scenario where a post-June 1 cut in 2022 could create $6.1 million in cap space, it would come with a dead cap hit of $8.99 million. Nothing like chewing away at cap space in 2022+ just to bite the bullet on a contract extension that — while sensible when it was agreed upon — looks less than ideal right now.
Things shouldn’t look this bad for Jackson all the time moving forward. And I believe you learn more about a player with how they respond to a bad game than the woeful showing itself. But there’s no denying the trend in the wrong direction that is sending all of this into motion.