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Better Use Could Turn Eddie Jackson's Fortunes

Bears safety looks to rebound and new defensive coaching staff has a plan for making this happen.

Shortly after safeties coach Sean Desai became defensive coordinator, he addressed the sudden drop in production last year by safety Eddie Jackson.

Desai was of the opinion Jackson's first interception-free season was not a difficult fix. 

"I don't think so," Desai said. "Obviously we're not going to get into the nitty gritty of the personnel details and everything like that, but I don't think so."

One thing Desai did touch on was how the defense has to get players into more suitable roles, something former defensive coordinator and mentor Vic Fangio did.

"We're gonna find the roles that fit these guys' skill sets," Desai said. "I think that's really important. That's the thing that I learned from all of those coordinators, and I think that Vic was really masterful at that."

In Jackson's situation, the obvious fix is to have him back more in deep safety situations or in two-deep safety rather than putting him near the line of scrimmage to be like a box safety.

Jackson is athletic and versatile, but most deadly when fielding the ball and returning it. He had several good chances at it last year and simply didn't make the play. A critical second-half throw by Aaron Rodgers under pressure by Trevis Gipson in the regular-season finale easly could have been a game-changing interception. Jackson just didn't catch it. 

The fact Jackson's passer rating against shot sky high might have had something to do with his use, as well. 

Pro Football Focus graded Jackson well down the list last year, his worst season as a pro at 59.5. It left him ranked 63rd overall among 94 safeties graded.  

Receiving a $58.4 million contract during last season makes it all the more embarrassing. 

Just a year earlier his passer rating against was almost 50% better (57.6) than the 110.1 he posted in 2020. The 280 air yards he allowed on completions was the same as the last two seasons combined.

Bad seasons happen. 

Take Jamal Adams, for example. He was supposed to be the ultimate safety, and the Seattle Seahawks gave up two first-round draft picks to the Jets for him.

Adams last year was the 53rd-ranked safety with a 62.7 grade, not much better than Jackson.

Landon Collins was a top 11 safety in 2016 and 2017 in Washington, and last year was 62nd. 

Jackson's reputation remains stellar. Cornerback Desmond Trufant spoke about Jackson with great respect after signing in Chicago. 

"He's really rangy, he's a game-changer, he's a game-wrecker," Trufant said. "I can just tell just from his film he grinds in the film room and prepares himself mentally and physically, so I'm excited. I can't wait to get out there with him."

Bears coaches need to make certain Jackson's decline was a quick dip and nothing long term. 

So does Jackson. 

Eddie Jackson at a glance

Career: 10 interceptions, 31 passes defended, six fumble recoveries, seven forced fumbles, six defensive touchdowns.

2020: Five pass defenses, career-high 82 tackles, 2 TDs allowed.

The number: 23. The number of times Chuck Pagano's defenses sent Jackson on a safety blitz in two seasons. Under Vic Fangio in 2018, Jackson blitzed once.

2021 projection: 3 interceptions, 1 TD, 12 pass defenses, 63 tackles

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