The Chicago Bears are returning their same starting safety duo for the first time since the 2018 season, but they’re also bringing back the same group of reserves that was here a year ago. There could be some competition among the depth guys for playing time, but it’ll probably be special teams ability that drives those backup roster spots as none of the reserves have done much on defense.
It’s becoming more common for teams to use an extra safety instead of a slot corner in some sub packages (i.e. big nickel), and with former Packers defensive coordinator Mark Pettine serving is a senior defensive assistant (he used a ton of sub packages in Green Bay) the Bears may do that this season. We saw the Bears do this a bit last year, so it’ll be interesting to watch how new defensive coordinator uses his personnel.
I’m expecting Eddie Jackson to be closer to the All-Pro we’ve seen in the past with the Bears transitioning to a Vic Fangio-like scheme under Desai. “We’re gonna find the roles that fit these guys’ skill sets,” Desai said last month. “I think that’s really important. That’s the thing that I learned from all of those coordinators, and I think that Vic was really masterful at that.”
The last couple years Jackson was playing closer to the line of scrimmage and playing a bit more man to man, but this year we should see him starting out deeper as a Fangio staple is giving a two deep look pre-snap before mixing things up. With him being able to play more instinctual his turnovers should increase.
You also can’t discount the familiarity of a consecutive season playing with Tashaun Gipson, which should help both of the starters out. Gipson wasn’t awful last year, but there’s room for improvement.
DeAndre Houston-Carson and Deon Bush, who were drafted in the same class (2016), figure to be the primary backups again, but neither played much last season. DHC has been a special team stalwart with over 80% of the third phase snaps the last two years, and in 2020 he played in a career high 91 snaps on defense (9%). Bush only played in 11 game due to injury last season and he had 66 snaps on D (6%) and another 193 on special teams (43%). Both players picked up their first career interception a year ago, so perhaps there’s still some defensive upside in them.
A good bet to make it
The Bears have carried 5 at the safety position the last two seasons, so if they do that in 2021 look for Jordan Lucas to have the edge. He opted out a year ago, but he’s another player with plenty of special teams experience, and in 2018 he was the first safety off the bench for the Chiefs and he picked up 4 starts.
On the bubble
Marqui Christian, a five year vet, had two separate stints on the Bears practice squad last year and that figures to be his best path to employment again this season.