In a podcast with longtime NFL writer Terez A. Paylor, Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed was asked to name other safeties he feels could join him in Canton, Ohio.
Reed mentioned Sean Taylor, Troy Polamalu, Eric Berry, Earl Thomas—and a young Bears player who has only 30 NFL games under his belt.
“I like Eddie Jackson coming up, too,” Reed said. “He’s representing right. He’s still young. He’s just two years in. But I like where he’s moving.”
Jackson has emerged as one of the NFL’s best safeties since being selected by the Bears in the fourth round of the 2017 draft out of Alabama. His five defensive touchdowns are tied for the most by a player in his first two NFL seasons and already rank him fourth in franchise history behind Charles Tillman (9), Mike Brown (7) and Lance Briggs (6).
Jackson was voted first-team All-Pro and named to his first Pro Bowl last season after he registered a career-high six interceptions and scored three touchdowns on two interception returns and a fumble return.
“He’s a ballhawk,” said coach Matt Nagy. “He understands what he’s doing. I love his confidence and the way he plays. Last year was a pretty good year for him. I think he’s shown other teams that they need to know where he’s at.”
Mr. Everything: Nagy loves working with versatile players on offense and no one seemingly can do more than free-agent acquisition Cordarrelle Patterson.
Patterson signed with the Bears March 13 after spending his first six NFL seasons with the Vikings (2013-16), Raiders (2017) and Patriots (2018). In 95 career games, he has averaged 30.0 yards and scored six touchdowns on 176 kickoff returns, caught 184 passes for 1,872 yards and 10 TDs and rushed for 687 yards and seven touchdowns on 184 carries.
Last year with New England, Patterson started back-to-back games at running back in place of the injured Sony Michel, rushing for 38 yards on 10 carries in a 25-6 win over the Bills and 61 yards and one touchdown on 11 attempts in a 31-17 victory over the Packers.
“We have some plans for him with what we want to do,” Nagy said. “I’m proud of Cordarrelle and the fact of what he’s done coming into this camp, digesting this playbook and seeing what we do as a complete player, whether that’s a wide receiver or in the backfield. He’s grown and done everything we’ve asked.”
Taking strides: Nagy is pleased with the progress that Bradley Sowell has made in his conversion from tackle to tight end. Sowell shed 35 pounds from 310 to 275 during the offseason as part of the position switch.
“I like where he’s at,” Nagy said. “For us, if we don’t have patience with him in this transition and there’s frustration with anything, we have to check ourselves as coaches. We’re taking this guy who has played tackle in his career and moved him to a position where you’re running routes and you’ve got to know every formation where you line up. All of that said, I really like where he’s at, and I’m looking forward to more.”
Sowell hasn’t played tight end since he was a freshman at Mississippi. But he recently told ChicagoBears.com that he doesn’t view the position change as a risky career decision because the team feels he’s better off there and he’s fully committed to his new role.
“It speaks to who he is,” Nagy said, “trying to sacrifice, knowing that for us and our role at the ‘Y’ position, that we could use some depth there. He’s being about the ‘we’ part. He took a lot of time and effort to lose some weight and get down to a playing weight at tight end. I just commend him and I’m looking forward to these next two games and seeing what he can do.”
Fun times: The Bears reported to training camp July 25 and still have three weeks of practice leading up to their Sept. 5 regular-season opener.
Nagy knows the importance of keeping things fresh.
“The one thing is where you can get monotonous in practice and meetings is doing the same thing over and over again,” he said. “So we'll have some fun in meetings. We'll maybe make some jokes on some guys here or there. Prince [Amukamara] in particular we like to pick on.
“And then in practice, too, there’s that balance of not being too crazy serious and letting the guys be themselves. I feel like one of my strengths is probably not sticking to a script. If I feel like it's a day where we want to have fun, we do.”