The Chicago Bears had some secondary issues a season ago, so this offseason they attacked the position to make sure that wouldn’t carry over. The new regime brought in a couple rookies and a few free agents while letting some dead weight leave, with the hope that the current group will be able to thrive in the new Matt Eberflus Tampa 2-esque scheme.
When looking at the safety position specifically, in just a few months the Bears turned a weakness into one of their stronger position groups. They’ll need to prove it on the field of course, but in knowing what we do about the scheme, I’m excited to see this group come together.
Eddie Jackson, who isn’t known for his physicality, said “everybody can tackle” last offseason in a clip from camp that just happened to blow up after he and Chicago’s secondary had an awful game against the Rams week one. The sentiment of the comment was that he and his fellow DBs are paid to take the ball away, but it was a bad look for the highly paid Jackson.
His play has dropped of a bit since being named to consecutive Pro Bowls in 2018 and 2019, but how much of that was due to the change at defensive coordinator, and in how he was aligned, and in having a rotating cast of players next to him since Adrian Amos signed in Green Bay?
The film tells me all that has to be taken into account, so if he’s able to get back to playing a more read and react style, and if he has a safety next to him that he trusts to do some of the dirty work, then can his play rebound?
I think it can.
His running mate at safety should be rookie Jaquan Brisker, who has impressed from day one, and who has been playing with the first string most of the offseason.
“He’s been really good,” head coach Matt Eberflus said last month at mandatory minicamp. “In fact, I was just talking to [defensive coordinator] Alan Williams about him on the field and we’re just so thrilled with his talent, with his mental makeup and just the person he is and where he is in his development so far up until this point.”
Brisker has an all-around skill set that will find him playing in the box when needed, but his coverage skills were also evident while at Penn State.
The Bears only brought back two of their unrestricted free agents from a season ago, one of which was safety DeAndre Houston-Carson. The 29-year old had a career year in 2021 with 51 tackles while playing in half of the team’s defensive snaps.
“Our entire staff is excited to get DeAndre back,” GM Ryan Poles said after they re-signed him. “On top of bringing tremendous value to special teams, he also has dependability on the back end. He is a great leader and our team will be better with him.”
Free agent pickup Dane Cruikshank has had a similar career arc to that of DHC. He was an accomplished special teamer his entire tenure in Tennessee before breaking out with a career best 43 tackles in 2021 while playing in 414 of their snaps on defense. Cruikshank should provide good insurance but also be in the mix if the Bears want to play some big nickle.
“Dane brings a combination of size and speed to our defense and special teams,” Poles said after signing him. “We thought his competitive mentality stood out on tape and are excited to add him to our defense.
A good bet to make it
Ten defensive backs seems like a likely target for the 53-man roster, but it might not be an even corner/safety split. If the Bears do bring along a fifth safety then seventh-round draft pick Elijah Hicks could have the edge. The experienced (46 starts at Cal) Hicks is an energetic player that was also a team leader for the Golden Bears.
On the bubble
Michael Joseph has been around the Bears off and on since 2018 when he was on their practice squad. The former Dubuque corner from Oswego, Illinois was moved to safety a season ago and that’s probably his best position to stick at in the NFL.
The Bears brought in a couple undrafted free agents at the position in A.J. Thomas and Jon Alexander, but both seemed destined to fight it out for a spot on the practice squad.
There are some young cornerbacks on the roster that could be in line for a position change to safety, but until I know for sure I’ll group them in with the corners tomorrow.
How many safeties do you think make the cut this year?