Safety Eddie Jackson reverted back to his Pro Bowl form during the 2022 season, rising as a veteran leader for a young Bears defense.
While Jackson missed the final five games of the season after injuring his foot against the Jets Nov. 27, the sixth-year pro totaled 80 tackles – two short of matching his career high – six passes defended, four interceptions and two forced fumbles. Three of Jackson's interceptions came in the first four games of the season, as he recorded picks against the 49ers, Texans and Giants.
Due to his re-emergence as a ballhawk for the Bears along with his ability to serve in a major leadership role this season, ChicagoBears.com has selected Jackson the Bears Defensive Player of the Year for 2022.
Following back-to-back Pro-Bowl seasons in 2018 and 2019, Jackson finished the season without an interception in 2020 and 2021. Aside from the 2018 season, when Jackson had 15 passes defended, six picks, a league-high two defensive touchdowns, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery, 2022 marked his most efficient year in the league.
Jackson's bounce-back year started with the hiring of coach Matt Eberflus, who gave each player on the roster a clean slate heading into 2022. Back in August, Jackson applauded Eberflus' leadership qualities and the way he preached accountability, but also practiced it himself. The veteran safety also quickly bought into Eberflus' "HITS" principle and was named a team captain in October following the trade of Robert Quinn to the Eagles.
"The HITS principle, that right there is something that you really – it's slow, you know. You hear it [and say], 'huh?' But then you start to see it and it's like 'OK, it really is true,'" Jackson said in August. "Just that and the way [the coaches] carry themselves. Flus has not been late to a meeting. He's always on time. So just holding everyone to that accountability, and just letting his action match his words. And I feel like that's the big thing."
Those new principles led to Jackson to record his first interception of the year in the fourth quarter of the Bears' season-opening win against San Francisco. Jackson kept building momentum throughout the season and by Week 11, was tied for third in the league with four interceptions. Additionally, when Jackson's season-ending injury against the Jets occurred, he was the leading vote-getter among NFC free safeties for the Pro Bowl.
While Jackson's resurgence as a defensive playmaker was key for a young Bears defense this season, his growth as a leader and mentor was just as critical. In early December, defensive coordinator Alan Williams discussed how Jackson's influence on the unit didn't disappear even after he was placed on injured reserve.
"We do know that we'll miss the leadership," Williams told reporters Dec. 1. "We do know that we'll miss the toughness that [Jackson] brings. We do know that we will miss the big-play ability that he brings. But I do think that the mark of a great leader, which I do think Eddie is, is that when that leader leaves, everything doesn't fall apart. That you've instilled enough in other people – how to go about your work, how to go about preparing, all those things – that it doesn't fall apart. It still keeps doing that."
Jackson served as a leader off the field as well this season, even inviting the team to his house for Thanksgiving as many players don't have family in the area to spend holidays with.
While Jackson made it point this season to be there for all of his teammates – defense, offense and special teams – he made the biggest impact on rookie safety Jaquan Brisker, as the two formed a strong connection starting last summer.
During training camp ,Brisker discussed how he spent time over the summer at Jackson's home going over film while the veteran answered all of his questions about different plays or techniques. When Jackson was placed on IR later in the fall, Brisker described his close relationship with his fellow safety.
"Really just the knowledge that he has given me on and off the field, especially off the field, giving me different directions, just whether that has to come with buying a house or just trying to find the next car," Brisker said of what's he learned from Jackson this year. "When it comes to football, reading the quarterback, knowing disguises, what to do in certain disguises and things like that. I'm grateful for him on and off the field."
Check out the best photos of the 2022 season—taken by Bears photographers—featuring players on the defensive side of the ball.