Jaquan Brisker went to Soldier Field for the first time this spring. It wasn't what he expected – it was nicer than he anticipated. Nicer than Madden made it look.
He envisioned himself on the field, in the middle of a game, hearing the roar of the crowd. Brisker painted a picture of himself calling plays, and more importantly, making game-changing plays.
Brisker has flashed those playmaking abilities early and often in training camp, breaking up passes or jumping into routes. But in Wednesday's practice, Brisker felt himself take a step up.
"Today, I broke on a ball with my eyes," Brisker said. "I feel like last week I wasn't too good with my eyes. I was just looking at the quarterback. But today I made a huge improvement in traffic today. I cut across the middle of the field. Should have been a pick. But I broke on it with my eyes and got a deflection."
Brisker has gravitated towards head coach Matt Eberflus' emphasis on takeaways. The rookie had an interception three days into camp and has come close to another one a few times.
The secondary's ability to disrupt the offense in practice is no coincidence. Getting takeaways is one of Eberflus' core principles and he makes sure to implement it into every practice.
'We have a lot of different takeaway drills and team reps also," Brisker said. "Just always scooping up the ball and running 10 stripes. Just always make sure we're doing something that involves turnovers, whether that's ball in the air, we're breaking at a 45-degree angle, or just scooping it in and tapping it back to our teammates. Just make sure we've got the ball in our hands. They always emphasize it in individual and team reps."
Disrupting the passing game at a high level is nothing new to Brisker. Through three seasons at Penn State, he tallied 14 pass breakups, five interceptions and a fumble recovery. As a freshman and sophomore at Lackawanna Community College, Brisker had four interceptions, a forced fumble and fumble recovery.
Through seven practices, Brisker has earned endless praise, surprising teammates and coaches with his natural abilities. Veteran defensive backs Jaylon Johnson and Eddie Jackson have been excited about Brisker's work ethic and competitive nature.
Enjoy Illinois Training Camp was taken to the next level Tuesday as the Bears practiced in pads for the first time this season at Halas Hall.
Eberflus has been especially impressed with Brisker's speed and ability to change gears quickly while maintaning body control. Brisker's compatibility with Jackson also has Eberflus excited about the defensive back room.
"They do complement each other," Eberflus said of Brisker and Jackson. "I think they're both versatile. They can play low, both guys can capture tight ends in coverage, I like that part of it. And both guys are good deep players. You know a lot of times you don't have that in the NFL. You have really a guy who's a good down player and a good deep player and I believe both of them are good at both and that leaves you a lot of versatility defensively."
Brisker is gelling well with the entire defense, but the cornerbacks and safeties have formed a distinctive relationship.
Between celebrations after a takeaway or pass breakup and the level of communication in practice, the cohesiveness in the secondary group is growing every day.
"You could feel it in the air. You could feel it all around." Brisker said. "The energy's just different. We're all on the same page. We're all moving with a different swagger. And we're just going to continue to get better. It's only Day 2 or Day 3. We're just gonna keep going. That swag's gonna keep going. And that energy's just gonna keep going up. That's gonna cause a lot of turnovers and for us to look great out there."
Brisker is just as confident in his potential as his coaches or teammates. He and rookie corner Kyler Gordon have briefly talked about being All-Rookies or Defensive Rookie of the Year. Brisker has the latter written down in his notebook as his big personal goal for the season.
But Brisker's team goals are taking precedent. If those come to fruition, then the personal side will take care of itself.
"Take this team to the playoffs, that's one thing," Brisker said of his team goals. "Win a Super Bowl and then the individual success is gonna come, so whatever comes with it is gonna come, so I really don't think about stuff like that too much. I just let it flow."