As the Chicago Bears progress through training camp, we preview the different positions. Today, we take a look at the safeties.
We have football! While we won’t see any preseason games, we’ll still have updates on the Chicago Bears during training camp. That means the start of the regular season is closer. Some worry about whether the season will actually begin, but as of now, it will. How long it stays that way is unknown, but let’s enjoy it while we have it.
Last season, the Chicago Bears made two switches that opened eyes. First, they made a switch on the offensive line. They moved Pro Bowl center Cody Whitehair to guard and guard James Daniels to center. Second, they moved All-Pro free safety Eddie Jackson to strong safety so they could bring in Jackson’s college teammate, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
Neither of those switches was very successful. Whitehair and Daniels switched back in the middle of the season and the line performed better. Also, while Jackson had another Pro Bowl season, he wasn’t his normally dominant self at strong safety and Clinton-Dix’s performance wasn’t worth keeping Jackson there.
This offseason, the Bears agreed with that statement and allowed Clinton-Dix to walk via free agency. They made Jackson the free safety again and went about finding a strong safety. They found former Houston Texans strong safety Tashaun Gipson and signed him. The Bears signed him to a one-year, $1.05 million deal.
The Gipson/Jackson combination is a very good one
Having Gipson and Jackson playing together makes the Bears’ safety position very tough. The two combine for 23 career interceptions. Additionally, only two safeties have held opposing quarterbacks to a completion percentage against them of 53 percent or less in the past two seasons. Who were they? Of course, Gipson and Jackson.
Having two ballhawks at safety just adds more to an already elite defense. The Bears pass rush should be better with a healthy Akiem Hicks and the addition of Robert Quinn, another former All-Pro. That makes opposing quarterbacks have to throw before they want to, leading to mistakes.
The secondary has Pro Bowl cornerback Kyle Fuller lurking and making interceptions, taking advantages of those mistakes. Also, rookie Jaylon Johnson has the ability to become another Fuller. Throw in Jackson and Gipson and opposing offenses will have nightmares trying to complete passes, much like they did in 2018.
How strong is the depth at safety?
The Bears announced that Gipson would have to earn a starting spot in a battle with Deon Bush. That was a tall order for Bush under normal circumstances. He’s been a career backup with the Bears. He hasn’t played more than 31 percent of the defensive snaps in any season, and in 2019 he played a career-low 5 percent of the snaps. He’s mainly been a special teams stalwart.
Now add the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 virus and the cancelation of preseason games and the “competition” is nearly nonexistent. Gipson will be the starter and Bush should be the main backup. That means he should see a pretty good increase in the number of snaps he’ll see over last season.
DeAndre Houston-Carter is a capable backup to Jackson. If Jackson stays healthy, Houston-Carson’s job will be to just give Jackson some rest and play enough snaps to help keep Jackson fresh throughout the season. Adding to the mix is Jordan Lucas, who just two seasons ago had 32 tackles, a sack, and an interception as a backup with four starts should also make the team and will be in the rotation at strong safety. Because of that, Bush’s true battle will be against Lucas and not Gipson.
Should Jackson and Gipson stay healthy, they’ll give the Chicago Bears one of the best safety combinations in the NFL. Furthermore, with the other elite units on that defense, they could help produce something special in Chicago.