CHICAGO – When Bears rookie safety Jaquan Brisker said he was an old-school safety who looked up to the likes of Ed Reed, Sean Taylor, and Troy Polamalu growing up, it was actually current Bears safety Eddie Jackson that came to mind.
Because, based off that statement and what Jackson’s strengths are, a Brisker-Jackson duo sounded like it was exactly what the Bears position group needed: one guy who can play the run and one who can play the pass.
And so far, according to Jackson, Brisker hasn’t disappointed in regard to flying around the practice field and making plays.
“He’s been exciting to watch man,” Jackson told reporters Tuesday. “He’s learning, he’s open, he’s asking a lot of the right questions. Just to see him flying around making plays on the ball – you always like to see that. Especially from a young guy.”
But where Jackson really sees the ultimate potential is exactly what Brisker likes to do – play the box.
“We have some similarities,” said Jackson in regard to he and Brisker’s playing style and ability. “I know he’s always telling me he likes to be in the box. Just having that right there, he wants to be down (in the box) and I can be in the back, be free (safety). We can switch it at any time, so just having some similarities is going to be fun.”
Jackson is best suited at free safety and his play over the course of his career reflects that.
He’ll also tell you that, himself.
“That’s what I feel,” said Jackson. “Just having somebody who loves to play that position, it takes the weight off your shoulders. And I can focus on roaming and getting the ball.”
Jackson’s right. When he plays free safety, he’s a better player.
The numbers back it up. Jackson was known as one of the league’s best cover safeties during his All-Pro season back in 2018. Per Pro Football Focus, he finished that year with the highest coverage grade (94.7) out of any other safety in the league.
That year, he led all safeties in pass breakups (8), had the second-most interceptions (6), allowed the third-lowest completion percentage (54.5%), had the fourth-best forced incompletion rate (18%), and quarterbacks averaged the second-worst rating (54.9) when targeting Jackson. All of these numbers are among safeties with at least 556 coverage snaps on the year.
It’s clear Jackson is very good in coverage, but something strange happened after 2018: Jackson’s playing time at free safety dropped each year. Per PFF, Jackson went from playing 652 snaps at FS in 2018 to 541 in 2019, to 530 in 2020, and finally, to a career-low 325 in 2021. He played a career-low 429 coverage snaps in 2021 after averaging close to 634 per year from 2018-2020.
The addition of Brisker will allow Jackson to play more to his strengths, which will only help the Bears defense, at the end of the day.
But the best part is that even if the Bears do need Jackson to play in the box, he’s more than willing to do so. Just like he’s more than willing to let Brisker stand up to the challenge of becoming his running mate in 2022.
“I’m willing to play both, it don’t matter,” Jackson told reporters when asked about if he prefers playing strong or free. “But, just knowing that he’s accepting that role and really buying into it – I’m going to let him get it.”
You can check out Jackson’s entire press conference, below:
Featured image via Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports