Bears

Eddie Jackson healthy, ready to bring center fielder range to Bears' secondary

Eddie Jackson healthy, ready to bring center fielder range to Bears' secondary

Eddie Jackson’s senior year at Alabama was cut short by a broken leg, but the Bears’ fourth-round pick doesn’t expect that injury to affect him in 2017. 

Jackson suffered his injury Oct. 22 returning a punt against Tennessee and missed the rest of Alabama’s season. 

“I’m just ready to get there and work with the training staff at the Bears,” Jackson said. “I know I’m gonna be ready for training camp 100 percent, no limitations.”

When healthy, Jackson was an electric playmaker — nine interceptions, 12 pass breakups and five total touchdowns — who worked initially as a cornerback and later as a safety at Alabama. Two of those scores came in 2016 as a punt returner, a position where he could make an immediate impact for the Bears.

“(The Bears) told me they liked me as a returner,” Jackson, who averaged 23 yards per punt return, said. “That’s one of the things they want to try me at, or see how well I do. All I’ve got to say is I’m just ready to come in and compete and work. You know, take advantage of every opportunity that’s given to me right now.”

Jackson moreso fits a Bears need as a rangy free safety, though he wasn’t a sure tackler with 16 missed tackles in 122 attempts from 2014-2016, according to Pro Football Focus. In addition to those nine interceptions (six of which came in his junior year), Jackson broke up 12 passes in four years, and in 2016, he limited opposing quarterbacks to a 38.3 passer rating when they threw his way. 

And Jackson turned three of his interceptions into touchdowns. For some context: Malik Hooker, the Colts’ 15th overall pick who was regarded as the best “center fielder” safety prospect this year, had three touchdowns on seven college interceptions. 

“When I get the ball, I feel like I turn into a receiver,” Jackson said. “It’s my mindset. I don’t think about going out of bounds, or think about going down, I think about touchdowns.”

The Bears only intercepted eight passes as a team last year, a void the team began to address with the signing of Quintin Demps (six interceptions in 2016) in March. Jackson will push Adrian Amos, who doesn’t have an interception in over 1,800 career plays. 

“I just feel like wherever I’m needed I can do it all,” Jackson said. “I’ll have good coaching they can teach me what I need to be taught and they talked to me about playing safety and special teams. I’m just looking forward to come out there and earn a spot and hopefully take us to a Super Bowl. It’s possible.”

Anthony Miller is hyped about Nick Foles' knowledge of Bears' offense

Anthony Miller is hyped about Nick Foles' knowledge of Bears' offense

One of the main reasons the Bears targeted Nick Foles in an offseason that was overflowing with quality quarterbacks to challenge Mitch Trubisky for Chicago's starting job is his familiarity with Matt Nagy's offense. The Bears knew what they were getting when they traded a fourth-round pick to the Jaguars for the former Super Bowl MVP, and in the current COVID-19 reality, that knowledge of who Foles is as a quarterback is more valuable than the team could've ever imagined.

So is Foles' comfort with the playbook. 

Unlike traditional offseasons when players have a chance to acclimate themselves with their new city, teammates, coaching staff, and offensive system, the novel coronavirus has thrust the Bears' quarterback competition into a shotgun four-week run that Foles is oddly equipped to handle. He's already made a positive early impression on wide receiver Anthony Miller.

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“You can definitely tell that Nick has been playing this game for a long time, and he knows this offense very well," Miller said Friday during a Zoom call with reporters. "He’s very detailed in practice, you can catch him in the back of an offensive play going through his progressions and he’s not even in, so that’s just the type of player he is, and I can’t wait to see him live action to see what he really can do.”

It feels like the Trubisky vs. Foles showdown has been underway since March, but the reality is it's just getting started. Padded practices begin next week and will give Chicago's coaches and players their first real opportunity to evaluate which quarterback gives the team the best chance to win.

According to Miller, the starting gig is up for grabs.

“This is going to be an interesting competition to see and the best man is going to get the job.”

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Super Bowl or bust? Why Bears' championship formula is backward in 2020

Super Bowl or bust? Why Bears' championship formula is backward in 2020

First, the good news: The Bears can win Super Bowl LV.

Why not? It’s August.

If Matt Nagy can find the right quarterback and Ryan Pace’s play to overhaul the tight end room pays off, this offense could be a ton of fun to watch. And if the addition of Robert Quinn gives the Bears the sort of fearsome pass rush we expect it will, this defense should be among the best in the NFL – and more than good enough to win a Super Bowl.

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There’s absolutely no part of me that’s going to tell you the Bears cannot win a Super Bowl before we’ve seen them practice, let alone play a game, in 2020.

“We want to win a Super Bowl,” wide receiver Allen Robinson said. “Every day we come into the facility, all our meetings and things like that, I think that our coaches are doing a really good job for everybody to keep that in mind and that's the main thing.”

Okay, but you’re probably waiting for the bad news. I just didn’t want to start with it. Because while it's not impossible for the Bears to make a Super Bowl run, there's a big reason why it feels unlikely. 

The Bears’ formula for winning in 2020, seemingly, is pairing a good enough offense with an elite defense. It’s what got them to the playoffs in 2018 as NFC North champions. It’s what could get them back to the playoffs again this season.

But an “eh, it’s fine” offense coupled with an awesome defense is not a formula that wins you a Super Bowl in 2021. As the last 10 Super Bowls tell us, it pays to have a great offense – and doesn’t matter if you have a great defense.

The last 20 Super Bowl participants, on average, had the sixth-best offense in a given year as ranked by Football Outsiders’ DVOA. The average ranking of their defenses was about 12th.

It’s been even more pronounced over the last four years. On average, a Super Bowl team in that span ranked fourth in offense and 16th in defense.

Only two teams in the last decade reached a Super Bowl with an offense outside the top 10 in DVOA (Denver in 2015, Baltimore in 2012 – notably, both teams still won). Eleven of the last 20 teams to make a Super Bowl had a defense outside the DVOA top 10, including last year’s Kansas City Chiefs.

MORE: Why you shouldn't worry about Allen Robinson getting a contract extension

So the Bears, as currently constructed, do not appear built to win a Super Bowl. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done – we’re not all that far removed from the 2015 Broncos hoisting the Lombardi Trophy with the No. 25 offense and No. 1 defense – but recent history suggests it’s unlikely.

That is, unless Nagy can find the success his former peers (Doug Pederson, Andy Reid) had with his offensive scheme. Make no mistake: Offense leads Super Bowl runs, with defense a supporting character. Not the other way around. And it feels like the Bears have it the other way around. 

 

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