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Sports

No targets, no problem: Eddie Jackson, Bears secondary off to impressive start

Chicago Bears saftey Eddie Jackson can't believe the call after his interception that he returned for a touchdown was called back on a pass interference call during a Week 2 game against the Giants at Soldier Field in Chicago.
Chicago Bears saftey Eddie Jackson can't believe the call after his interception that he returned for a touchdown was called back on a pass interference call during a Week 2 game against the Giants at Soldier Field in Chicago.

Bears safety Eddie Jackson made a zero with his fingers and held it up to his eye.

“How many targets I had today,” Jackson said to linebacker Danny Trevathan.

The pair stood on the Bears sideline in the waning seconds of last week’s win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“For real?” Trevathan said.

“No targets,” Jackson said.

Jackson was mic’d up for the game. The five-minute clip shared by the Bears on social media showed some insight into Jackson’s personality on the field – chirping at Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans, persuading the refs on a close call, and at the end he was trying to make sense of his zero targets.

Quarterback Tom Brady and the Buccaneers went nowhere near Jackson. On one hand, it’s the ultimate respect for a defensive back. On the other hand, it makes for a boring night.

“I want targets,” Jackson said Wednesday. “I get it, but I like playing football. I like being challenged. So I want to be targeted. It’s more opportunity to make plays.”

Even with two new members, the Bears secondary has lived up to – and maybe even exceeded? – expectations. The Bears have been beat deep very few times in the first five games. Most of the explosive pass plays they've allowed haven't resulted in touchdowns. The Bears have allowed only four passing touchdowns in five games.

Calvin Ridley’s long gain on the first offensive play for the Atlanta Falcons in Week 3 was the only truly big pass play the Bears allowed.

Cornerback Kyle Fuller has been the best player on the field at times. His second-quarter forced fumble against Tampa Bay changed the course of the game. Safety Tashaun Gipson has been a rock-solid addition, and rookie Jaylon Johnson is looking like a steal considering that six cornerbacks were selected in the draft before him.

Jackson has had a couple blunders (he got beat on that aforementioned Ridley play, and there was a bad missed tackle against a Tampa running back), but zero targets speaks for itself.

“Obviously, if they’re not targeting him, they’re going to go somewhere else,” Bears safeties coach Sean Desai said. “So if he’s able to take away some of the reads for the quarterbacks and take away maybe even half of the field for the quarterback, that helps our defense out.”

Having cornerbacks like Fuller and Johnson, instills confidence everywhere across the defense. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Fuller and Johnson are both top-10 DBs in average separation when targeted. Fuller ranks No. 1 with an average separation of only 1.5 yards from the offensive target.

Bears secondary coach Deshea Townsend said the defense asks a lot of Fuller and Johnson. In man-to-man situations, they are limiting big plays.

“If you look at what they're doing, we're keeping guys from scoring touchdown passes,” Townsend said. “That always goes to those guys being on an island, along with a great pass rush and some other things that help.”

That’s part of the reason why the Bears are the best red zone defense in the NFL through Week 5. And in the fourth quarter, they’ve given up just 16 points.

Jackson said it’s all about the mentality. The Bears defenders hold themselves to a high standard.

“Right now, I don’t feel like [we] as a defensive unit have been playing our best ball,” Jackson said. “We’ve been getting the job done, you could say. But the type of defensive unit we have, we want to dominate.”

They’ve shown flashes of dominance. It’s a big reason why the Bears are 4-1 heading into a Week 6 matchup with Carolina this weekend.

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