Why doesn’t Eddie Jackson have an interception 11 games into the Bears’ season?

Why doesn’t Eddie Jackson have an interception 11 games into the Bears’ season?

No defensive player has more touchdowns than the five totaled by Eddie Jackson since 2016. Quick reminder: Jackson entered the NFL in 2017. 

That fact remains true even as Jackson not only is without a touchdown in 2019, but is without an interception or fumble recovery 11 games into the season. 

“I find a thrill off getting the ball and getting a chance to get in the end zone,” Jackson said. “That’s what really excites me the most, when I get the ball in my hands with a chance to score. So that’s just want I gotta continue to try to do. 

It’s not like Jackson has completely lost that ballhawking knack that defined his first two years in the NFL, including an All-Pro season in 2018, though. There are a few factors in play here, starting with this:

Jackson is playing in the box more than he ever has in the NFL, and as a result is playing free safety — where he’s able to use his range and ball skills best — significantly less. 

Per Pro Football Focus, here are Jackson’s snap percentages as an in-the-box safety vs. as a free safety in his career:

  2017 2018 2019
Box 26% 17% 29%
FS 62% 72% 51%

“He's a playmaker,” defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. “Whether it's in the deep parts of the field where he's not really getting tested a whole lot, so when he's down in the box and he's coming on pressures and things like that, some fire zone stuff, he's doing a good job there. He's a playmaker and he can make plays and change a game for us.”

Pagano interchanges his safeties quite a bit, with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix playing more deep safety than Jackson but still getting down into the box on a regular basis. Jackson, though, has already played more snaps as a slot corner (149) than he did in either of his first two years in the league. 

But that has not resulted in an increase in targets — in fact, Jackson is being targeted about one time fewer per game in 2019 than he was in 2018, when he had six interceptions. 

The point being: Jackson has not had as many opportunities for game-changing picks this year. 

“I just feel like whatever I need to do for the team to win, that’s the most important thing about it,” Jackson said. “Just do my part so the team can win. Other than that, it really don’t matter. 

“But obviously as a player you want to create turnovers. I like scoring touchdowns, so that’s why I like getting the ball in my hands. But I haven’t been able to do that yet this year, so far, but I feel like it’s still coming.”

Jackson is not making excuses for his lack of turnovers, though he did force a fumble when he ripped the ball out of Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley’s hands on the first play of the Bears’ Week 11 trip to California. Opposing offenses, though, are certainly more cognizant of where Jackson is on a given play given how effective he was at jumping routes and ranging for interceptions last year. 

This, too, is where Pagano’s defense has required Jackson to be a different player in 2019 than he was in 2017 and 2018 under Vic Fangio and Ed Donatell’s watch. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially given how hard Jackson has hit over the last few weeks. 

“I feel like I’ve been more physical this year than I have in the last couple years,” Jackson said. “That comes with having to play in the box now trying to have to stop the run. It just helps me add something to my game that I can work on and help me become a better all-around safety.”

2019 will probably wind up looking like a disappointing year for Jackson in terms of his interception total. But he has four tackles for a loss, one more than he had in 2017 and 2018. Run defense isn’t sexy, but it’s important — especially for Jackson, who entered the league with questions about how physical he could be as a tackler. Jackson already has more tackles for a loss this year (four) than he had in his previous two seasons (three). 

“I enjoy going in the box and playing like that,” Jackson said. “It’s fun to me. I don’t really look at it like ‘oh, I gotta do that this week.’ I have fun. That’s all it’s about, having fun playing the game.” 

Jackson has answered those questions in 2019. With an eye on 2020, when his friend Clinton-Dix likely will not be back in Chicago, that Jackson has proved he can be a hard-hitting, physical tackler should only give the Bears more confidence about his future. Signing Jackson to a contract extension should be part of Ryan Pace’s offseason checklist, after all. 

And if/when the Bears do ink Jackson to a second contract to keep him in Chicago for the long term, they can do so knowing he's developed into a physical in-the-box presence — and still has the range to make plays on the ball, even if that hasn’t showed up in 2019. 

“(It’s) not only an impact for the defense, but an impact for himself,” Clinton-Dix said. “We know that Eddie can get the ball. We know he can score touchdowns. But to see him in that box making hard tackles one on one, blitzing, just making TFLs — that’s awesome to see.”

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Eric Ebron interacts with Akiem Hicks' NFC Championship tweet, causing free agency speculation

Eric Ebron interacts with Akiem Hicks' NFC Championship tweet, causing free agency speculation

Just as Bears fans were finally coming to terms with their disappointing 8-8 season, Akiem Hicks decided to pour some salt on the wound and take to Twitter, imagining what it would’ve been like if the Bears had made it to the NFC Championship game.

While we were all imagining how indeed “lit” it would’ve been to see the Bears play in the post-season at Soldier Field, Indianapolis Colts tight end Eric Ebron decided to quote tweet Hicks with a thinking face emoji. Curious behavior.

Ebron has played for the Colts since 2018, when he had a stellar first season in Indianapolis, scoring 14 touchdowns. In 2019, Ebron’s season ended after 11 games due to an ankle injury. He scored three touchdowns, reeling in 31 catches for 375 yards. Colts GM Chris Ballad has said that the organization is likely to move on from Ebron in 2020, meaning he would be available in free agency.

Tight end is one of the positions on the Bears long offseason do to list, and Ebron seems he could be a potential fit. Judging by their Twitter interactions, Akiem Hicks and Tarik Cohen seem to think so.

Hicks replied to Ebron telling him he could hear Bears fans calling his name. Cohen echoed this sentiment in his own tweet, albeit more cryptically.

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Ranking the most painful moments for Bears' fans during the 2020 Championship weekend

Ranking the most painful moments for Bears' fans during the 2020 Championship weekend

You may have noticed that none of the four teams that played this weekend were the Chicago Bears. They haven't played since the last week of December, but since this disastrous season won't end for another two weeks, there's been plenty of time for some especially painful parting shots. And weirdly enough, there were multiple moments through the two games on Sunday that reminded Bears' fans about the 8-8 season that absolutely no one is trying to remember. Shall we go through them? OK! 

4. Jimmy Garoppolo Beat The Packers To Go To The Super Bowl With 6 Completions 

Remember when the Bears were going to trade for Jimmy G? Back before they traded up to take Trubisky, rumors were swirling that the Patriots' backup was headed to Chicago. That is what it is -- everyone's connected to everyone at one point or another, and Bears have enough potential QB scenarios to give themselves a stroke over. The real kicker was beating the Packers, and Aaron Rodgers, while attempting eight pass attempts. Remember Nagy's I'm-Not-An-Idiot comment after running the ball 7 times against New Orleans. Imagine that, but it works, and it's in the NFC title game. The Bears couldn't beat the Packers on either occasion this season, and that included 98 pass attempts. That sound you hear is someone (you can choose, really) banging their head against the wall inside of Halas Hall. 

3. Raheem Mostert Rushing For 220 Yards and Four Touchdowns 

Truly an insane night for Mostert. He was briefly on the Bears during the 2016 season, which happened to be Jordan Howard's first and best. Mostert also was on three other teams (NYJ, SF, CLE) that year, and three OTHER teams (PHI, MIA, BAL) the year before, so it's not like the Bears are the only team sitting here with yolk on their face. Still, seeing an NFL journeyman get halfway to the Bears' total rushing touchdown number (8) in one game is the stuff that existential crises are made for. 

2. Robbie Gould's Kicking Well For A Super Bowl Team

Things were all well and good when Eddy Pineiro was hitting game-winners in Denver while Gould got off to one of the worst starts of his career. As the Bears' special teams unit watched from their rented South Beach group house, Gould went 3-3, including a franchise postseason record 54-yarder, in the Niners' 37-20 win. He started the season by being crowned champion of Chicago Football Madness, and now he gets a shot at ending it with another title, even if it's not quite as illustrious as the midwest's premier Bears-only online bracket challenge. 

1. Literally Everything Pat Mahomes Did All Day 

The decision to trade up for Trubisky was bad, but honestly, the endless stream of barely-distinguishable versions of the same snarky tweet may be worse. At some point Bears fans are going to have to come to terms with Pat Mahomes playing for the Chiefs, but it sure as hell won't be this year. In their defense, everything he does makes you physically stop whatever else you're doing and figure out what noise just came out of your mouth. Bears fans are robbing themselves of the best Mahomsian experience by insisting on slamming the Caps Lock button anytime the Chiefs play, but with each new height that Mahomes and the Chiefs reach, it becomes harder and harder to blame them.

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