Eddie Jackson

Bears safety Eddie Jackson compares Mitch Trubisky to Drew Brees

Bears safety Eddie Jackson compares Mitch Trubisky to Drew Brees

One of the surprise standouts from last season's rookie class was safety Eddie Jackson, who quickly ascended to a starting role in training camp and became the kind of playmaker the secondary has been lacking for several years. Now entering his second season, Jackson is expected to make a jump from pleasant surprise to one of the NFL's best young safeties. 

Despite Jackson's high level of play in 2017, his draft class will always be defined by the success of quarterback Mitch Trubisky. The Bears will only go as far as the former North Carolina Tar Heel takes them, and if Jackson's player comp for Trubisky is correct, a lot of wins are coming to Chicago.

In a recent appearance on SiriusXM's NFL Radio, Jackson said Trubisky reminds him of a surefire Hall-of-Famer.

"One person I think I could compare him to is Drew Brees," Jackson said. "He has that chip on his shoulder. He wants to win."

High praise indeed.

Brees is one of the NFL's all-time greatest quarterbacks. He's thrown for 70,445 yards and 488 touchdowns through his 17 years as a pro and is best known for his pinpoint accuracy and incredible leadership skills. He led the Saints to a win over the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV, earning MVP honors completing 32 of 39 passes for 288 yards and two touchdowns.

Trubisky has a long way to go before he can be in the same category as Brees and the NFL's best starting quarterbacks, but the Bears front office has done everything in its power to set him up for a big 2018 season. He's expected to have a huge jump in production, but he still could be a season or two away from hitting his long-term stride. Brees, for example, didn't throw for more than 4,000 yards in a season until his sixth year in the league (first with the Saints). He has four seasons over 5,000 yards since that time.

Trubisky threw for 2,193 yards, seven touchdowns and seven interceptions in 12 starts, numbers that if spread across 16 games would've equated to 2,924 yards and nine touchdowns. 

With coach Matt Nagy calling plays and receivers like Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and tight end Trey Burton in his arsenal, Trubisky has a chance to reach the 4,000-yard mark faster than Brees and rewrite the single-season Bears passing records as soon as this year.

Bears secondary ranked as one of league's most underrated position groups

Bears secondary ranked as one of league's most underrated position groups

Chicago Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller had a breakout season in 2017. It was a prove-it year for the former first-round pick, and he delivered in a big way. He parlayed his career-best season into a four-year, $56 million deal and is now considered one of the NFL's top corners.

He's not the only high-end performer in Chicago's secondary, however. Safeties Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson arrived as one of the league's top young safety tandems, and veteran Prince Amukamara did enough opposite Fuller to receive a multi-year deal this offseason.

Entering 2018, the Bears may have one of the most overlooked secondaries in the NFL. In fact, that's exactly what The Ringer's Danny Kelly declared in a recent story about the NFL's most unheralded position groups.

"Most of the hype around the Bears’ eventful offseason has focused on the team’s new head coach, Matt Nagy, its offensive skill-position reboot (headlined by the signing of Allen Robinson), and the potential growth of second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky," Kelly wrote. "But don’t lose sight of what the team did to keep its burgeoning secondary intact."

The biggest challenge facing the Bears' defensive backs is the fact they'll be challenged by three top-tier quarterbacks in the NFC North. Aaron Rodgers is a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer while Kirk Cousins and Matthew Stafford are perennial Pro Bowlers. Fuller, Amukamara and the rest of the starters will need a big assist from Leonard Floyd and the pass rush.

The Bears are going to need to get more from their pass rush next year, and the team’s defensive backs will simply have to make more plays on the ball after intercepting just eight passes all of last year (tied for 29th). But Chicago’s unheralded secondary unit looks poised for more recognition in 2018.

Fuller proved last season that he's a true lockdown defender. He recorded two interceptions and a career-high 17 passes defended. He set a new career-best in tackles, too, with 66. His 84.3 grade from Pro Football Focus ranked 21st among cornerbacks and was yet another career watermark.

Assuming Fuller stays healthy and has another top-tier season, and the young safeties develop as expected, the Bears' secondary has as good of a chance as any to be considered one of the elite position units in the NFL by season's end.

Pro Football Focus: Adrian Amos on the cusp of elite status

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USA Today

Pro Football Focus: Adrian Amos on the cusp of elite status

The Chicago Bears defense was plagued by ineffective safety play for years after the departure of Mike Brown, one of the defense's leaders during the Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs glory days. The search for the next dependable starter spanned names like Major Wright, Chris Conte, Danieal Manning and many others.

It wasn't until Ryan Pace drafted Adrian Amos in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft that physicality was restored in the third level of the defense.

Amos is coming off the best year of his career in 2017 and is approaching on league-wide recognition as one of the best players at his position. In fact, Pro Football Focus named Amos as one of the league's young players on the cusp of elite status.

The Chicago Bears took a trial-by-fire approach with fifth-round safety Adrian Amos early in his career, as the former Penn State product played north of 930 defensive snaps in each of his first two seasons in the NFL. The Bears’ early investment in Amos has seemingly paid off.

Cast into a starting role when veteran safety Quentin Demps broke his arm in Week 3, Amos earned a career-high 92.0 overall grade in 2017, ranking No. 1 among the league’s qualifying safeties. He ranked second in yards allowed per reception (7.1) and 15th in passer rating when targeted (81.8). He also flashed strong tackling ability on receptions, as he allowed just 3.50 yards after the catch per reception allowed, ranking fifth among safeties with at least 25 targets this past season.

Amos recorded his first career interception in 2017, which he took back 90 yards for a touchdown. He registered 60 tackles and forced two fumbles, both career highs. 

Amos’ 2017 production should keep him from relying on injury to start in Chicago and as long as he can pick up where he left off ago, he’ll solidify his elite status.

The Bears suddenly have one of the best young safety duos in the NFL. Amos and Eddie Jackson, another of Ryan Pace's Day 3 draft gems, were key variables in the defense finishing in the NFL's top 10 last season. The blend of Jackson's instincts and Amos' physical style gives defensive coordinator Vic Fangio a variety of ways to attack opponents on Sundays. Amos, for example, lined up at linebacker 105 times last season, per Pro Football Focus.

Fangio noted that Chicago's defense finally has continuity for the first time in his tenure as coordinator, something that is especially true at safety where Amos continues his march toward league stardom.