There are changes afoot with the Chicago Bears safeties. All-Pro Eddie Jackson moves back to his original spot and now there is a battle for the other safety starting spot.
A couple of seasons ago, the Chicago Bears had one of the best safety duos in the NFL. Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson were complemented each other well. In 2018, they combined for 124 tackles, 8 interceptions (2 of them run back for touchdowns), 24 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries (one run back for a touchdown), and 2 sacks.
In 2019, the Bears allowed Amos to walk via free agency, then moved Jackson over to strong safety so they could sign free agent Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
That move had mixed results. Jackson again had a Pro Bowl season, but he wasn’t the dominant force he was as a free safety. Clinton-Dix had a good season, but not good enough to warrant keeping Jackson at strong safety.
Starting unit changes…again
The Bears realized that so they made changes to the starting unit for the second season in a row and third time in four seasons. Clinton-Dix left as a free agent and Jackson moved back to free safety. They then went out and signed Tashaun Gipson, formerly of the Houston Texans.
The Bears announced that there would be a battle for the starting strong safety spot. Deon Bush, mainly a special teams player and backup strong safety since the Bears drafted him with their fourth-round pick (124th overall) in 2016. Jordan Lucas was supposed to be in the mix as well but he opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 virus concerns.
How this will be a serious competition is unknown, however. Bush hasn’t played on very many defensive snaps. He played on 31 percent of the snaps in his rookie season but that number plummeted to 8 percent in 2017. In 2018 it was 14 percent but then dropped again in 2019 to a career-low 5 percent.
To suddenly think that Bush will do enough to beat out a strong starter who has 23 career interceptions (three of them run back for touchdowns) is kind of difficult to believe. Sure, Bush will get a chance to play more snaps, but he’ll likely end up backing up Gipson.
On the other side, DeAndre Houston-Carson will be Jackson’s backup. His main job is to play enough to keep Jackson fresh through the season.
What to expect from the unit
Expect Jackson to go crazy this season. Since he wasn’t his normal dominant self at strong safety his reputation took a hit. After ranking #33 on the NFL’s Top-100 list in 2019, he wasn’t on the list this year. Many top safeties list either have him lower than his play demands or not on the list at all. He is motivated to remind everyone who he is.
Also, he still has a bad taste in his mouth from the Bears’ playoff loss. He injured his ankle late in the 2018 season and couldn’t play in the playoffs. The game-winning touchdown was made on a play in his spot. Who knows what might have happened if he was there?
On his Twitter page, Jackson has the word “Revenge” at the top.
He was on the NFL channel explaining why.
🔥🔥 REVENGE SZN 🔥🔥
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) August 10, 2020
Expect Jackson to return to being the dominant force he was before last season. He has something to prove to the critics and he wants this defense to be an all-time great unit.
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Gipson will easily beat out Bush for the starting strong safety. He and Jackson will continue to be the ballhawks they’ve been during their careers and will work better together even better than Amos and Jackson were.
There will be a lot of turnovers for the Chicago Bears defense in 2020 and Jackson and Gipson will have many of them.