The 2017 fourth-round draft pick has recorded eight interceptions, 20 pass breakups, four fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles in his first 32 NFL games. He has also scored five defensive touchdowns, tied for the most by any player in his first two seasons in league history.
Jackson earned first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors last year in large part due to his ball skills. But the 6-foot, 202-pounder also excels in the physical aspect of the game, making him one of the NFL’s best all-around safeties.
Jackson put those skills on display on multiple occasions in last Sunday’s dramatic 16-14 road win over the Broncos.
In the first quarter, he forced Denver to punt after making an excellent open-field tackle of 6-5, 251-pound tight end Jeff Heuerman a yard short of a first down. On the Broncos’ final drive of the game, Jackson drilled running back Phillip Lindsay in the right flat on third-and-three from the Bears’ 12 just as the ball arrived, causing an incomplete pass.
“I take a lot of pride in it, especially this year because it’s going to be a little tricky trying to get the ball,” Jackson said. “That’s what coach [Chuck Pagano] basically told me: ‘There’s going to be a lot of guys, a lot of quarterbacks who are not really going to throw at you, so you’ve got to find ways to make plays.’
“I’m trying to pick up that physical part of the game and just fly around and try to make as many tackles as I can or just try to make as many plays as I can whether it’s with the ball or making a big hit.”
Jackson was all over the field against the Broncos (much like he is every game). The Alabama product registered 10 tackles, tying a career high.
“He has some of the best instincts I’ve ever been around as a defensive player,” said coach Matt Nagy. “He’s always around the football. He had a lot of plays that might not have shown up on the stat sheet. But hitting guys and knocking the ball out and being at the right spot and making the quarterback change his timing on the throw, all of that is very important.”
Jackson believes that his nose for the ball stems from his days playing receiver (as well as defensive back) in high school.
“I feel like I’ve always had it and that comes from my receiver background,” Jackson said. “I played receiver, so just finding the ball has just always been one of those things and when I get the ball in my hands just being around to try to turn it into a touchdown is one of the things I take pride in.”
Jackson and the Bears are gearing up for Monday night’s road game against the Redskins. Washington’s offense is led by quarterback Case Keenum, who in two games this season has completed 69.1 percent of his passes for 601 yards with five touchdowns, no interceptions and a 111.2 passer rating.
“He’s kind of a guy that’s overlooked,” Jackson said. “He makes a lot of plays. People don’t give him a lot of credit that he deserves. He’s a guy, if you sleep on him, he can make a lot of plays.”
The Bears defense has performed well early in the season; it ranks third in the NFL in points allowed and fourth in total yards. But the unit still has room for improvement—it forced only one three-and-out against the Broncos, allowing Denver to cross the 50 on eight of its nine possessions in the game.
Jackson feels that the defense needs to do a better job of limiting big plays, missed tackles and mental errors while also generating more takeaways.
“We’ve got one turnover in two games and we led the league in turnovers last year [with 36],” Jackson said. “So that’s something that we’re trying to emphasize a lot more going into this week.”