I’ve had rookies make my 10 Most Important Chicago Bears list through the years, but I don’t remember ever having one as high as I have Jaquan Brisker this time out. The Penn State safety checking in at number 6 wasn’t something I intended, but as I do each time I compile this, I write a bunch of Bears down then shuffle the list around until it feels right.
And Brisker at this spot just felt right.
General manager Ryan Poles was ecstatic when Brisker was still on the board in the second round, and he jumped at the opportunity to make him a Bear.
“Really everything that you’ve heard myself and [coach] Matt [Eberflus] talk about the last few months, he has that in him,” Poles said after night two of the NFL Draft. “And I think he’s going to make our secondary better as well. The cool thing about him, one of those attributes you look for in players is, ‘Can you make big plays in big moments?’ And he showed that over and over in his career, so we’re excited about him.”
Brisker has been running with the number one defense all offseason, and he’s impressed each time out.
“We’re just so thrilled with his talent,” head coach Matt Eberflus said of Brisker via The Athletic, “with his mental makeup and just the person he is and where he is in his development.”
Brisker has the all-around skill set that will help former All-Pro Eddie Jackson get back to playing to the best of his ability. And while Brisker can certainly cover, he’s also physical enough to play closer to the line of scrimmage. In fact, he says he enjoys playing in the box, and that will allow Jackson to be back where he read and react more.
ESPN’s Matt Bowen believes Brisker gives the Bears options on the back end of their defense.
“Brisker is a classic fit for Matt Eberflus’ scheme in Chicago as a defender with multidimensional traits,” Bowen recently wrote. “His play style reminds me of Bills safety Micah Hyde. With a smooth pedal, split-field range and easy transition ability, Brisker can drive downhill on the ball from the deep half or match vertically in quarters. When the Bears do play their single-high schemes, look for Brisker to rotate down, tracking the ball in the run game or lurking underneath in coverage. A highly instinctive player with disruptive traits, Brisker will pair with safety Eddie Jackson in the Bears’ heavily defined system.”
Simply plugging in a veteran safety next to Jackson the last few years hasn’t worked, and while Jackson can play closer to the line of scrimmage, he’s at his best when he’s back like in 2017 and 2018 when he was paired with Adrian Amos.
“I’m willing to play both, it don’t matter,” Jackson said about how he’s used at safety. “But just knowing that he’s (Brisker) accepting that role (in the box) and he’s really buying into it, If he’s going to go ahead, then I’m going to let him get it. Just having somebody who loves to play that position and can take the weight off your shoulders, I can focus on roaming and getting the ball.”
Brisker thriving and playing a key role in 2022 is doubly important because that likely means Jackson is back to being the Jackson of old and taking the ball away.
The defensive scheme that Eberflus and defensive coordinator Alan Williams have put in places an emphasis on takeaways — it’s what the T in the H.I.T.S. philosophy stands for — and it’s something Brisker has embraced.
“That’s the standard around here; creating turnovers is what we do,” Brisker said via the team’s site. “And that was also in my DNA. I feel like I attack the ball. I attack the ball, whether that’s forcing a fumble or whether that’s going for an interception. I love being around the football and getting it back for the offense.”