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Why Eddie Jackson Wants More than Picks

Bears safety Eddie Jackson wouldn't be satisfied simply with more interceptions because he sees a need to improve elsewhere but he wouldn't mind a few more TD returns.

Eddie Jackson says he didn't initially see the ratings from Pro Football Focus downgrading his efforts last year, or even the previous year.

Jackson knows about it, though.

"I don’t pay attention to it, but my agent will send me stuff," Jackson said. "He'll send me little hints and stuff. He knows what type of player I am. I keep note of it. I take it very personal."

Jackson is taking this year very personally after his status seemed to take a hit in safety circles last season. He thinks his tackling, or lack thereof, had something to do with it.

"There's goals I set for myself of just tackling better, finishing better," the fifth-year safety said.

Jackson wants to eventually get the Bears defensive touchdowns record, but the high priority is being a physical closer.

NFL stat partner SportRadar put his missed tackle percentage at 13.7%, which actually was better than he had in 2018 and 2019. However, some of the misses led to scores or big gains.

"I think for him that is one area he knows he can improve in," defensive backs coach Deshea Townsend said. "I don't think there's ever been one player, including all of us that's played—flag, touch—that you hadn’t missed a tackle.

"But for him, he understands those are the things that makes his part of the game more complete, and I think that's just part of wanting to get better."

It's not a case of being soft or avoiding making tackles.

"I don't think you'll be here if you don't want to tackle," Townsend said. "That's the first thing in my room; if you won’t tackle, you won't play.

"Even on this defense I don't think Khalil (Mack), some of those other guys won't appreciate you not tackling, so that's not the issue."

It's not easy practicing to be more physical because there is little contact in practices during an NFL season.

"In practice, we've got a heavy bag," Jackson said. "We call it Big Bertha. It's like a 300-some-pound bag. Just stand there hitting it after practice. Wrap up drills, tackling drills.

"Coach Deshea does it with us every day, tackling drills, hitting the ground, see what that feels like, breaking on angles when somebody gets the ball, just come in a little squat, lead with your right foot or left foot, same foot, same shoulder. Just little tendencies, it helps you, it rolls over to the game."

When Jackson says he has to finish better, he's also talking about getting the ball and taking it back for touchdowns. 

The last of his six defensive touchdowns came last season on a fumble return against the opponent in Week 1, the Rams. The Bears defense outscored their own offense in that game 7-3 in a 24-10 loss. 

Jackson has had three taken back all the way in other games that were overturned by penalties. With those three TDs he's already at Charles Tillman's team record of nine.

"They called two touchdowns back from me last year, so that's been in the back of my mind," Jackson said. "That's fuel to the flame."

No one is just giving out touchdown returns or interceptions.

"I've gotta work hard, I’ve gotta do my job to the best of my ability for the team to do theirs," Jackson said. "That’s just the mindset. Just know the chip is on my shoulder, man. The chip is on my shoulder, for sure."

The chip about the turnovers taken away is especially big.

"That's tough with record-breaking things, and one of the goals that I set for myself is to break the defensive touchdown record here at the Bears that Peanut Tillman has," Jackson said. "With them, I would've been closer.

"But not just to try to make it all about me. You just want to get the ball. I feel like our team fuels off of that. That affects games, man. If you score defensive touchdowns, that's helping the offense stay off the field and keep fresh legs and you're putting points on the board."

Jackson recalled something he heard from Mack about making those big plays.

"He was like, 'One thing about it, Eddie-Bo, the great ones always find ways to make plays,' " Jackson said. "That just stuck with me. It just changes your whole focus. He's right. He learned that from Charles Woodson.

"So that's just something that's just been sticking with me ever since: If you're a great one, you’re gonna find a way to make a play."

If he's making a play this week, it will be against a passer he knows well. Stafford has never played the Bears with the Rams but has compiled 5,440 passing yards with 32 touchdowns and 23 interceptions against them for a passer rating of 86.3 while the Lions went 11-9.

"For one, he can extend plays," Jackson said. "He's a pro. He’s been doing it for awhile. A true vet. A great quarterback. 

"He likes things to be on time, so he’ll look you off and know what he’s doing with the ball if you show him what coverage you’re in. So you just got to be on top of those keys to try to keep him on his toes, disguise it a little bit."

Jackson has passes to break up, interceptions to grab, and TD returns he figures he's due—not to mention some tackles he needs to make.

Twitter: Bear Digest@BearsOnMaven