Games against divisional opponents inherently are ideal for measuring progress, with straight lines able to be drawn between Games 1 and 2 against the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions.
Sunday’s rematch with the Packers — who beat the Bears, 35-14, in Week 4 — will be scrutinized heavily for signs of progress, especially for an offense that has a different quarterback under center.
The absence of Aaron Rodgers muddies things a bit for the Bears’ defense, but Sunday will mark the sixth game of the Adrian Amos-Eddie Jackson safety pairing, with those players starting together for the first time at Lambeau Field in late September. And since that rough evening in Wisconsin, the pair of Ryan Pace draft picks (Amos was a fifth rounder, Jackson a fourth) has played well.
“The ability to play together, feeding off one another,” Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson said of the improvements Amos and Jackson have made. “I think they play well down in the box, they move well in the back end. Jackson had a big game a couple weeks ago with a pick and a fumble return, so guys that are always around the pile and ready to make a play when they get that opportunity.”
Both Jackson and Amos have pick-sixes and fumble recoveries this year, with Jackson’s going for a score against the Carolina Panthers. Amos is fourth on the Bears in tackles (35) and third in tackles for a loss (four) despite barely playing on defense until Quintin Demps’ suffered a broken arm Week 3 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Jackson is second on the team with four pass break-ups.
While both made some mistakes against the New Orleans Saints in Week 8, they’ve played at a high enough level together that the Bears haven’t missed Demps, the veteran and team captain who signed a three-year contract back in March.
“You have to have a trust factor there with your partner on the back end,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “I think those guys have it.”
Amos sort of struggled to explain the chemistry between he and Jackson, beyond saying “we just work well together.” That’s not a bad thing — it just works and makes sense for the pair, and that speaks to the natural fit between Amos, who’s strong in the box, and Jackson, who’s strong in coverage.
“He’s a better tackler than I am, so he’s more in the box than I am,” Jackson said. “I’m in the field, covering receivers most of the time. We just really try to balance it out.”
The Bears liked Demps’ experience next to Jackson to begin the year, but Amos has played over 2,000 snaps in Fangio’s system at this point, which has helped the pair mesh. The Bears seem to have found the right mix at safety, and potentially without a key defensive player (linebacker Danny Trevathan, who didn’t practice this week due to a calf injury) against a scuffling Green Bay offense, will need to keep trending in the right direction for continued defensive success on Sunday.
“Amos is a smart guy,” Jackson said. “He’s been around so long, if I’m confused on something, I can look at him and he’ll give me the check real quick. And if he has a blur in his mind, he can look at me and I’ll give him the check. So it’s just, you help each other out, you can be a crutch for one another.”