The Chicago Bears have some questions surrounding their safety room in 2023, but if their starters can remain healthy, it may not matter. Eddie Jackson and Jaquan Brisker have the potential to be a top-five duo in the NFL, but the reserves are lacking.
The Bears bolstered their front seven in the draft and free agency, they drafted a corner in the second and fifth rounds, but they waited until the penultimate pick in the draft to address safety. Normally, this wouldn't be that big of a deal, but they allowed both veteran safety reserves from the 2022 season to walk.
"I'm going to have one of the best seasons ever played by a safety!" Jackson Tweeted. "Mark my words!!!"
Those are lofty aspirations for the former All-Pro, but the 29-year-old does have game-changing ability, and he's fully recovered after ending the 2022 season on injured reserve. He was on his way to a third Pro Bowl last year before the Lisfranc injury, so he's naturally confident that he'll be even better in year two of the scheme.
Brisker was a day-one starter as a rookie in 2022, and while he did fight through some growing pains, he finished strong and was named to the Pro Football Focus All-Rookie Team.
And speaking of PFF, they have both Jackson (18th) and Brisker (27th) in their Top 32 Safety Ranking for the 2023 season.
Brisker showed flashes of elite playmaking ability during his rookie season. His one-handed interception of Mac Jones was arguably the play of the year for Chicago’s defense. His 67.0 overall grade is in the same neighborhood as guys like Poyer, Holland and Hufanga above. Brisker accomplished all of this despite playing behind arguably the worst front seven in football. The Bears expended a ton of resources to improve their defense this offseason. A Year 2 breakout from Brisker would greatly improve their playoff chances and move him toward the top 20 of these rankings.
A good bet to make it
Besides these two, I don't see any other safeties on the roster as a lock. It wouldn't surprise me to see the Bears add a veteran as insurance.
Former Bear, DeAndre Houston-Carson, remains unsigned, and at this point, I wonder if he's even looking for an NFL gig. The 30-year-old has been a core special teamer during his career, he's started nine games the last two years, and he's played on defensive sub-packages too, but maybe he's had enough.
On the bubble
Last year's seventh-round rookie, Elijah Hicks, played in 15 games and picked up two starts late in the season. He was only targeted seven times by opposing quarterbacks, but those QBs had a perfect passer rating (158.3) on those throws.
This year's seventh-rounder, Kendall Williamson, is an athletic and physical player, but his technique needs a lot of refinement.
Adrian Colbert was signed to the practice squad last November and was called up for a couple of games. The Bears are the 29-year-olds tenth NFL team since 2017, and he has 22 starts in 41 career games.
A.J. Thomas was a UDFA last year that was active for five games. If the Bears had better depth at the position, I'd say his best bet would be the practice squad, but he has as good a shot as any of the other reserves to win a roster spot.
The Bears have two undrafted rookies in camp this year, Macon Clark and Bralen Trahan, and they'll likely be fighting for a practice squad spot.