Safety Eddie Jackson's ball skills, instincts and athleticism certainly helped. But the only Bears rookie expected to start Sunday's season opener against the Falcons also earned his job due to his knowledge of the game.
"For any rookie to come in and earn a starting position regardless of position, it speaks to that—how hard they work, what their football acumen is and how fast they adjust," said coach John Fox. "Eddie has got a good background and has a good football IQ. And that's what enables guys to come in and learn and grasp and execute under pressure."
Rookie fourth-round pick Eddie Jackson is expected to start Sunday's season opener at safety alongside veteran Quintin Demps.
Jackson honed the mental and physical aspects of his game at Alabama, where head coach Nick Saban has created a college football powerhouse.
"Kids who come out of Alabama get pretty much a good taste of a pro defense," said coach John Fox, "in particularly from a coverage standpoint, Nick having been a secondary coach in the NFL for a long time. So they're well-schooled."
Asked what he learned while playing at Alabama, Jackson said: "Just approaching the game every day ready to work, coming to practice every day wanting to get better. Don't get complacent and don't feel like you're better than anyone. Just keep working and looking up to the older guys."
The older guy that Jackson has been looking up to as a Bears rookie is his partner at safety, 10-year NFL veteran Quintin Demps.
"He's helped me a lot," Jackson said. "He sent me a text, 'Study film at least 20 minutes a night.' As an older guy like that who's been around the game for a long time, he treats me like a little brother and always tells me stay on your keys and make sure my mind is fresh."
Playing alongside the seasoned veteran should help Jackson excel as a rookie.
"Quintin, when we signed him, was to bring some experience," Fox said. "It's critical back there you have a guy that can kind of direct traffic and kind of foresee things, anticipate motions and checks and all the things that happen very fast in football.
"Quintin has probably had the most experience at that, but Eddie has adapted well and it's not easy because you're kind of quarterbacking the coverage unit. Regardless of how many DBs are out there, there's a lot of communication that occurs and [Jackson] has adapted very well."
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has been impressed with Jackson while also acknowledging that the rookie must continue to work on learning the defense, his assignments and what the Bears expect from him.
"He's got good instincts," Fangio said. "He's played a lot of high-level college football, so the game hasn't been too big for him at this point."
Jackson fell into the fourth round of the draft primarily because he was still recovering from a broken leg he sustained last Oct. 22 while returning a punt for Alabama. The 6-foot, 202-pounder had a knack for finding the end zone with the Crimson Tide the past two seasons, scoring three touchdowns on interception returns of 50, 93 and 55 yards and two TDs on punt returns of 85 and 79 yards.