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Bears might have drafted something special in safety Eddie Jackson

Bears rookie safety Eddie Jackson (39) had a pass break-up and a tackle on a running play in his NFL preseason debut. (Jun Yam/AP)

Bears rookie safety Eddie Jackson leapt halfway through the end zone to make a play Saturday against the Cardinals.

His hang time nearly turned into a one-handed interception, but he did break up a possible 32-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Carson Palmer to receiver J.J. Nelson.

“I thought I had it,” Jackson said. “It was crazy.”

Make that, a crazy good play that encapsulates why Jackson is on the verge of locking up the starting spot next to veteran Quintin Demps. It has seemingly become Jackson’s job to lose. He hasn’t stopped making plays since stepping onto the field weeks ago in Bourbonnais. He has arguably been the Bears’ best defensive back.

“He’s got a good feel for coverage,” coach John Fox said.

And it’s a good thing the Bears had a good feel for Jackson coming out of Alabama.

Quarterback Mitch Trubisky and running back Tarik Cohen have created a buzz this preseason, but if the last several weeks are an indication of what’s ahead, Jackson will go down as a steal for general manager Ryan Pace and Co. from this year’s draft.

Teams were rightfully concerned about Jackson’s health. He suffered a broken leg in Alabama’s eighth game and had a rod inserted during surgery.

But the Bears’ due diligence gave them confidence. If healthy, Jackson was a natural playmaker

with range and instincts. If healthy, he could produce the takeaways they sorely missed the last two seasons.

Some late draft work by the Bears moved Jackson up their board. He was a high-round talent available late because of his health concerns. But he checked out.

Jackson’s history also helped. As a sophomore, Jackson suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament during spring practices in 2014, but he returned that season and became a productive 10-game starter.

“It’s a blessing I’m here,” Jackson said. “It’s a great opportunity. I’m glad the Chicago Bears gave me the chance to come out here and showcase my talent and really believe in me and the leg. I’m really thankful.”

Being a fourth-round pick — 112th overall — is now motivation.

“I use that, all that,” Jackson said. “It’s just fuel to the fire. A lot of people counted me out, so I’m still working. I haven’t proven anything yet.”

Jackson’s wrong. He already has proven to be a quick study in a complex defense. Ask his coaches and teammates.

“This defense is very, very hard,” Demps said. “There is a lot going on in this defense. But he hasn’t blown many coverages. He’s hasn’t had any [mental errors], and that’s impressive as a rookie to come in a system like this and be on point.”

It helps that Jackson played for Alabama coach Nick Saban, whose specialty is the secondary. Some of the Bears’ coaching points are the same as Saban’s.

It’s just one of the many reasons why he hasn’t stopped making plays. Jackson wants to reward the Bears for believing in him.

“I’m just grateful and thankful that I even get the opportunity to come out here and compete,” he said. “I’m just taking advantage of it.”

Follow me on Twitter@adamjahns.



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