The Chicago Bears haven't had a safety who has been a long-term star since Mike Brown. Could Eddie Jackson be the player to break that drought?
It’s a bold task to assign to a rookie, but Jackson has proven that he can be a playmaker on defense. Before he broke his leg last season, he was viewed as a prospect who would go off the boards within the first two rounds. However, due to said injury, he plummeted into Day 3.
Jackson will help the Bears in an area in which they have been lacking recently: forcing turnovers. He started his career as a cornerback, which is made evident on tape. He has great timing and has a nose for the football that a lot of safeties don't have.
In 2015, the Alabama alum had six interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns. His performance earned him a spot on the first-team All-SEC and third-team All-American rosters. He had one interception in 2016 before his leg injury, as well.
Once Jackson gets the ball in his hands, he instantly becomes a threat to score a touchdown. He had three pick-sixes in his last two years at Alabama, and had a career average of 33.7 yards per interception. He's also valuable as a punt returner: he brought two punts to the house in eight games last year.
He is a solid athlete with good size for a safety. His production as a ball-hawking safety and his special teams value will greatly benefit the Bears.
Jackson isn't without his flaws, however. In addition to his leg injury, he tore his ACL in the spring of 2014. His injury history should be worth keeping an eye on. He's not an outstanding tackler by any means; he won't be a game-changer in run support.
Plus, it has yet to be seen how Jackson performs when he's not around top-level talent. Alabama's defense had six other players who were drafted this year, plus Da'Shawn Hand, Da'Ron Payne and Minkah Fitzpatrick - who are all likely to be selected early in the 2018 NFL Draft. One can only wonder if his production was boosted by having great talent surrounding him.
Age: 24 years old
Weight: 201 pounds
Contract and salary cap
According to Over the Cap, Jackson is in the first year of a four-year, $3,065,808 deal. He will be receiving a base salary of $465,000 with $166,452 in bonuses.
Reason for improvement in 2017
Jackson will likely be competing for a starting free safety role this year. Adrian Amos has been serviceable as the starter, but he has one problem: he can't produce turnovers. He has yet to have an interception in his NFL career, and he's only forced one fumble. Given that Jackson has been somewhat of an interception specialist, the Bears may be willing to give him a shot in the starting lineup.
Reason for regression in 2017
A lot of how Jackson will do this season rides on his recovery from his leg injury. Will his speed be affected in any way? Will it take away some of his value as a punt returner? We won't know for sure until he steps onto the field.
Final roster odds
Jackson will make the 53-man roster; that much is not in question.
The real question, however, is if he can crack the starting lineup. He and Amos will likely be fighting it out into the preseason. While Amos will likely be the starter come Week 1, don't be surprised if the rookie takes his place somewhere down the line.