Quantifying value of Eddie Jackson for Chicago Bears

Chicago Bears (Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports)
Chicago Bears (Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports) /

Eddie Jackson has behind a lot of criticism from Chicago Bears fans in 2021. While a lot of it is fair, considering his contract, his play is not equal to elite safety; some of it is overboard. When it comes to talking of benching Jackson, or even arguments that he has been worse than Tashaun Gipson, that is where the emotion of a fan is coming into play. Jackson has not lived up to his deal, and he has missed a couple of notable tackles, but overall he has helped more than hurt the defense.

The issue is that it is hard to quantify what Eddie Jackson brings. Sean Desai came to the defense of Jackson, saying that he carries multiple hats in coverage and that his play on the backend limits explosive plays.

You do not see tackle numbers or interceptions on plays where the quarterback checked the football down because he had nothing deep, but Jackson is at his best. When the team lost Jackson on Sunday, there was a way to show the value that he brought in numbers.

Eddie Jackson limits explosives for Chicago Bears

The Bears have been one of the better teams at limiting explosive passes this season. They had a 9% explosive pass play allowed rate entering the 49ers game, which ranked 12th in the NFL. What made that more impressive was that their schedule featured some of the heavy hitters in the NFL.

Las Vegas and Cincy rank first and second in explosive passes, while the Rams, Bucs, and Packers are in the top 10 for explosive offenses. Entering week 8, the 49ers sat in 26th, with the Lions, of course, being the only team Chicago has played with a worse rate.

What ended up happening was that Eddie Jackson left the game, and the 49ers went on to have a 19% explosive pass play rate. That is 10% higher than their season average and dropped them from 12th to 26th in explosive pass defense.

After handling five of the top ten offenses with Jackson, they faltered against number 26. A key play like the Deebo Samuel pass before the half stands out because Chicago was getting the ball at halftime. Suppose they hold San Fran there; momentum changes in a huge way. It was apparent they would be passing and passing deep, and it is hard to imagine they would let that up with a rangy free safety back there.

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So, remember that while it is fair to criticize Jackson for missing tackles, it is over the top to demand the team bench him or suggest that others on the team are better. Jackson is not living up to his contract but has a unique role that does help the defense. It is no coincidence that he leaves, and teams feel safe throwing it deep.