There aren’t many analysts out there who know safety play like NBC’s Rodney Harrison; the two-time All-Pro and two-time Super Bowl champion played at a high level for 15 years split between the Chargers and Patriots. So when NBC Sports Chicago Bears insider JJ Stankevitz caught up with Harrison for a recent edition of the Under Center podcast, Eddie Jackson naturally was a major topic of conversation, and the current NBC Sports NFL analyst wants to see the Bears deploy Jackson a little differently than they did in 2019.
“I think this young player is a terrific player,” said Harrison. “Good size, great instincts, everything that you want in an all-star caliber safety. I thought he played a little out of position last year, playing a little more strong safety, I think he’s a more of a natural, ballhawking free safety. They need to bring somebody in to play that (strong safety) position. Just let him roam with his athleticism.”
The Bears did bring in some new faces to compete for the second starting safety spot, most notably 8-year veteran Tashaun Gipson. The biggest reason in favor of accommodating Jackson’s play style? The Hall of Fame safety to whom Jackson is comparable, according to Harrison.
“I think Eddie Jackson needs to go in the middle of the field, because he’s got so much range and so much vision,” explains the former Patriots team captain. “You look at the vision and the instincts, it’s like Ed Reed. Why would you take him out of the center of the field, and put him as the strong safety? If you’re going to do anything, send him off the edge, bring him, blitz him, disguise, move around, do all those different things.”
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Harrison’s thoughts are backed up by the numbers; while Jackson enjoyed a solid season in 2019 and made the Pro Bowl for the 2nd time, his explosive plays dipped significantly. Jackson recorded two interceptions after 6 in 2018, and his passes defended dropped from 15 to 5, and in light of that, Harrison offered some free advice to the Bears defensive coaching staff.
“A guy goes from getting his hands on the ball, strips, INTs, pass breakups, and then you take him out of the center, where he was a first-team All-Pro, and I actually voted for him, and you put him in the box? It’s crazy. You don’t have to pigeonhole him, but don’t put him in the box solely, because you just limit his ability and what he can do.”