The Chicago Bears’ contributions from the safety position have left a lot to be desired since they let Adrian Amos walk in free agency in 2019. Eddie Jackson seemingly lost the signature playmaking abilities he displayed in his magical 2018 campaign when he was named an All-Pro after picking off six passes and scoring three touchdowns. Meanwhile, the team has deployed a revolving door of uninspiring options at the other safety spot, where Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Tashaun Gipson, and Deon Bush have all seen extended action.
The previous regime was guilty of not prioritizing the strong safety position, which effectively killed Jackson’s productivity as a roaming ballhawk, as he had to play closer to the line of scrimmage. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was the first player who attempted to replace Amos. He was three years removed from an All-Pro birth of his own, and there was some hope he would reignite his career in Chicago. Nevertheless, his previous success came as a free safety, and he was out of his element in the box. He looked abysmal in his only year in the Windy City and has since bounced around various practice squads.
The Bears’ next attempt to replace Amos was by signing Tashaun Gipson before the 2020 season. While the 30-year-old at least provided more veteran leadership than Clinton-Dix, that might have been the only positive from his two-year stint as a starter in Chicago’s secondary. It became painfully clear he was past his prime when the defense did not skip a beat when career special teamer Deon Bush started four games in his place during the 2021 season.
It is easy to grab the low-hanging fruit and blame Jackson’s struggles on the Bears’ inability to find him a viable sidekick at strong safety. However, he has also suffered debilitating personal tragedies since 2020, including losing his best friend and two of his unborn children. These losses make his struggles completely understandable, as it would be difficult for anyone to play at their best under these circumstances. The 28-year-old has claimed to have come to peace with these losses, which has positively impacted his play, as he already has two interceptions this year after not having any the previous two seasons.
Chicago was scrutinized for selecting Jaquan Brisker with their second second-round selection, as many believed the receiver position was a more pressing need. His stellar play on the field has quickly silenced those doubters. The 23-year-old has played lockdown coverage and has only allowed 37 yards on 96 coverage snaps through three contests. He has been equally impressive in the running game, which has contributed to Jackson rediscovering his playmaking ability on the back end.
The Penn State product certainly does not lack confidence. The rookie has already declared that he and Jackson will be the best safety duo the league has ever seen. It would be easy to chalk this statement up to overconfidence since he has yet to experience his ‘Welcome to the NFL’ moment, but it is not hard to see why he is excited about the pairing. They complement each other very well, and their chemistry should only improve as they get acclimated to playing together.
Chicago’s defense has historically performed much better when they have two viable options patrolling the secondary. Jackson and Amos were one of the league’s most effective duos during their two seasons together, and there is reason to believe this pairing could become even better, as Brisker has already displayed better ball skills and coverage abilities than his counterpart.
The safety position is generally considered a luxury, and bad teams rarely have two quality starters. The Chicago Bears may be in the midst of a rebuild, but they seem ahead of the game in that respect, as Jackson and Brisker have already become one of the league’s best tandems. If they keep playing at a high level, Chicago might continue surprising those who pegged them for a premier selection in the upcoming draft.