Bears safeties more than adequate, but can be special when Jackson is
We continue a 12-part series grading each Bears position group A to F, including pluses and minuses based on a bell curve comparing all 32 NFL teams.
You can count on one hand the number of NFL teams whose starting safeties are both Pro Bowlers.
The Bears have that luxury in Eddie Jackson and Tashaun Gipson, but Jackson hasn't played at that level since just past the halfway point of the 2019 season.
How does Jackson get back to that level? He believes a big part of it is having Gipson back for a second straight season.
"It's huge, it's huge" Jackson said during the team's veteran minicamp. "I haven't played with a safety two years in a row since Adrian Amos (2018). "We're both ready to take sacrifices to do what needs to be done to help this team win."
The Bears are stacked deep in experienced, veteran talent at safety. If healthy, it can be one of the best groups in the league.
More ifs than you'd like but the potential you hope for.
From the second half of his 2017 rookie season into the last third or so of the '19 season, Jackson might have been the best safety in football.
A First-Team All Pro in 2018, Jackson was a legitimate Defensive MVP candidate thanks to his outstanding ball-hawking skills.
Somewhat mysteriously though he lost his edge over the course of the 2019 season, perhaps in part due to the Bears pass rush falling off. Over the course of the 2020 season, Jackson was average at best. There is no reason to believe he can't return to all-star status at 27, but making that happen will be one of the biggest keys to the Bears' 2021 season. Grade: B+
Tashaun Gipson Sr.
Gipson was a Pro Bowler in 2014 and has played close to that level ever since. He is not a true in-the-box safety to match Jackson's free-safety skills, but he's a better fit than Amos or Ha Ha Clinton-Dix were. Gipson was one of the team's best defenders the last six weeks of last season and in the Wild Card game in New Orleans.
He will turn 31 in August and may no longer be a Pro Bowl talent, but he can play at a very high level. Grade: B+
Bush is one of the better No. 3 safeties in the league, and while that probably is his ceiling, he's very good on special teams. When called on to start due to injuries to starters, he has played very well. Grade: B-
He signed as a free agent last spring and then opted out of the season due to the pandemic, but will return this season. Lucas has never made much of an impact on defense, but he is a special teams demon likely to be locked in a fierce battle for the No. 4 spot with the two guys listed below. Grade: C+
Houston-Carson was a sixth-round pick by the Bears in 2016 and has made his living as the fourth safety and on special teams. He is also more than capable as a dime back in max-protection schemes, but not a guy you'd want on the field for 60 minutes in the event of injuries to both starters. Grade C+
After four seasons with the Rams, Christian signed with the Bears last year. Suspended by the league the first two weeks of the season, he spent the year on and off the practice squad until being activated for the Wild Card game in New Orleans. He was productive as a No. 3 safety for the Rams in 2018 and 2019 and may be the most interesting of all the backups. Grade: C+
This is a talented, veteran group that a year or two ago would have been rated one of the best in the league prior to the mysterious decline of Jackson. If he bounces back it could be an A or A- group again with good health and an improved pass rush, but based on most recent results they are solid to much better than average, but not special. Overall Grade: B
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