Safety Eddie Jackson’s 2021 was ‘one of my worst seasons.’ So now what?

Jackson knows how last season looked. He saw it as clearly as everyone else.

SHARE Safety Eddie Jackson’s 2021 was ‘one of my worst seasons.’ So now what?
Bears safety Eddie Jackson stands on a grass field and stretches with his legs crossed.

Bears safety Eddie Jackson warms up during Wednesday’s voluntary minicamp at Halas Hall.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Bears safety Eddie Jackson knows how last season looked. He saw it as clearly as everyone else.

‘‘Yeah, it wasn’t the best at all,’’ Jackson said after the final practice of voluntary minicamp Thursday at Halas Hall. ‘‘I think that’s probably one of my worst seasons. I gave up too many deep balls. Just trying to eliminate that. The little things with your eyes, breaking on the ball, attention to details. Little things, little fixes that you could make.’’

You could make a similar case for Jackson’s 2020 season, too. An opportunistic player who once embodied the Bears’ NFL-best defense turned into someone who struggled to make tackles and explosive plays.

Consider this: In the three seasons before Jackson signed a four-year, $58.4 million extension to stay with the Bears in January 2020, he had 15 takeaways — 10 interceptions and five fumble recoveries. In the two seasons since the extension, he has no interceptions and one fumble recovery.

Jackson is one of the last vestiges of the Bears’ dominant 2018 defense. (He and linebacker Roquan Smith are the only two starters left.) The man who drafted Jackson and signed him to his extension, former general manager Ryan Pace, is gone, too.

Jackson is the only member of Pace’s once-ballyhooed 2017 draft class still at Halas Hall. He might be playing somewhere else, too, but the Bears would have had to pay $24.6 million in dead-cap money had they released him this offseason.

Jackson can benefit from new coach Matt Eberflus’ defensive scheme, which produced the second-most turnovers in the NFL in the last four seasons with the Colts. If he doesn’t, Jackson might not be around much longer. His dead-cap charge shrinks to $9.6 million next year, and new GM Ryan Poles doesn’t have the same attachment to him Pace did.

Eberflus said he liked what he saw during the Bears’ three-day voluntary minicamp. For one, Jackson participated on two of the three days. Other veterans, such as cornerback Jaylon Johnson and edge rusher Robert Quinn, didn’t practice at all.

‘‘I can see it in [Jackson’s] attitude and his demeanor,’’ Eberflus said. ‘‘I could see it in his eyes when I talk to him — that he is energized and he sees it as a fresh start for him. I can see it in his practice, too, just the way he’s carrying himself. He’s been great in the meetings, and he’s been great on the practice field.’’

Jackson said he thinks Eberflus’ base cover-2 scheme will help him keep the ball in his line of sight.

‘‘It’s probably a lot simpler,’’ said Jackson, who is playing for his third coordinator in as many years. ‘‘It’s not too much, ‘Eyes here, eyes there.’ You just see what’s in front of you and play. . . . Just seeing what’s breaking in front of your eyes, not in 1,000 places.’’

Now the Bears need him to make plays. Pro Football Focus last season ranked him 66th among safeties. That is alarming, considering there are only 64 starters leaguewide.

‘‘That’s what I want to get back to is making those plays,’’ Jackson said. ‘‘The biggest thing for me is just go out there flying around and lead my guys. That’s by playing good, making plays and getting back to how you know you’re capable of playing.’’

Jackson said he needs to control what he can. That includes his effort, execution and willingness to embrace the new defense.

‘‘I’m going to do whatever it takes,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m willing to buy in. Whatever it takes, whatever they ask of me, I’m willing to do it.’’

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