Many believed that the Chicago Bears needed to further address the defensive side of the ball in last week’s NFL Draft, especially after they went with offensive players with their first two picks in the draft in quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and tight end Adam Shaheen.
The bad news is, they only took one player on the defensive side of the ball in the entire draft. The good news is, they took a good one, who will be the pass defending safety that the Bears needed to acquire this offseason. With the first of two fourth round picks, Ryan Pace and company targeted Eddie Jackson of the University of Alabama. Say what you will of the Bears draft, one thing is very evident, that being that they had a plan and they executed it. You don’t take three D-II players unless you knew heading into the draft that those guys were going to be the one if they were available when it was time to take them.
Fortunately for the Bears, the former Crimson Tide safety Jackson was available in the fourth round for two reasons, with neither of them being related to his skill-set. The draft was deep with cornerbacks and safeties this year, and Jackson’s stock took a hit because of a broken leg that he suffered this past season, cutting his final season at Alabama short.
Jackson was one of the unspoken play-makers in one of the better defensive units in all of college football during his tenure at Alabama, and make no mistake that he would not have been available at number 112 if not for his unfortunate season-ending injury in 2016.
In his 38 games with the Crimson Tide from 2013-2016 Jackson made 126 tackles, 94 of them being solo tackles. Jackson also racked up 7.5 tackles for loss, but most importantly the safety intercepted nine passes in the Alabama secondary. Not only is Jackson a center-fielder type safety, he is a phenomenal athlete who can make plays with his speed and elusiveness. Jackson compiled a whopping 303 yards on interception returns, and three touchdowns. Put the calculator away, he averaged 33.7 yards with each interception that he made, and took it to the house a third of the time.
Wait, it gets better, in his final season at Alabama he started returning punts. In his Senior season at Alabama before the broken leg, Jackson returned 11 punts, two for touchdowns, while gaining 253 yards for an average of nearly 24 yards per return. If you weren’t impressed with his dangerous skills with the ball yet, note that his three interception returns for touchdowns were not of the short variety, he took picks back from 50, 55 and 93 yards out.
Outside of his well noted return ability on the defensive side of the ball, as well as special teams, and his plus ball skills, Jackson was a leader on the Crimson Tide defense. Many close to the Alabama football program have highlighted the excellent set of intangibles that Jackson will bring to the Bears secondary, and some have even called him the quarterback of the Alabama secondary.
The biggest question surrounding Jackson at this point is not related to his skill-set, but his broken leg and what he will look like when he recovers. To this point, I have read nothing but positive remarks in regards to his recovery from the season-ending injury, and quite frankly, I’m far less concerned with a player coming back from a broken bone than I would be a player coming back from an injury that involved ligaments or muscle structure.
No word out of the Bears camp whether or not Jackson will be involved in the return game, but considering the ineffectiveness in recent years, you’d have to imagine that Jackson will play a role in the return game as well as the secondary when he is 100 percent in regards to his health.