Bears safety Eddie Jackson is on a Devin Hester-like pace of prolific sudden impact. In only 27 NFL games, he has five defensive touchdowns. The NFL record is 13 set by Charles Woodson, Rod Woodson and Darren Sharper.
And Jackson doesn’t get any cheapies, either. His touchdowns have come on interception returns of 76, 41 and 27 yards and fumble returns of 75 and 65 yards. Since 1970, the only player with three defensive touchdowns of 65 or more yards in a two-season span is Deion Sanders.
Jackson looked like a bargain the moment he was drafted in the fourth round out of Alabama in 2017. But even he has to be surprised at the enormity of his impact. Right?
“To be honest with you, not really,” Jackson said with an easy smile Wednesday. “I wanted to come in here and dominate. But one thing I’m very blessed and grateful for is the team and place I ended up landing. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere than here — with the type of teammates I’ve got. Being on the same team with them makes me better and made me step up my game.”
Jackson, 25, has been developing into a face-of-the-franchise leader since he won a starting job in training camp as a rookie last year. And his most recent flurry of big plays has accelerated the pace. He knows he’s good. He knows he’s a difference-maker. But he also knows he’s at the right place at the right time.
Dropping to the fourth round of the draft after breaking his left leg at Alabama on a punt return against Texas A&M in 2016 was a personal disappointment. But it also helped put him in a great situation on a blossoming Bears defense and in the hands of two accomplished NFL coaches: defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and secondary coach Ed Donatell.
“I’m grateful that I ended up here,” Jackson said. “I’ve got great coaches, great teammates — they really play a big part in that. It’s a blessing when you have a guy you can relate to like coach Vic or coach Ed. Even coach [Nick]Saban, I can relate to him a lot in college. I’m just forever grateful, and I just want to keep learning from everything I can learn from.”
Jackson has a knack for making big plays at the right time. Of his 14 impact plays — six interceptions, three forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and a sack — 13 have come in a victory. None was bigger than his tiebreaking 41-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter that gave the Bears a 23-16 victory against the Lions on Thanksgiving. It earned Jackson his second NFC Defensive Player of the Week Award.
“He’s like a closer for us,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “When we need a play, when we need to score — you saw it against the Vikings; you saw it against the Lions — he just always shows up. Big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games. And he’s been doing that.”
In his second season, Jackson looks like he’s just getting started. It’s unlikely he’ll maintain the torrid pace of defensive touchdowns. But his overall game — tackling, coverage, finishing strong — has room for improvement. The attention is nice, but the player-of-the-week award is far from a crowning achievement.
“[Donatell] and I talk about that all the time,” Jackson said. “We don’t really try to pay attention to [awards] and get the big head. We want to keep working. The goal is to make the playoffs and the Super Bowl. That’s what we’re fighting for.”