On the heels of a four-game losing streak, the Chicago Bears just lost a key member of their defense on Monday. With two-time Pro Bowler Eddie Jackson heading to the reserve/COVID-19 list, the Bears may not have their star safety available on Sunday.
And considering they have to travel to Lambeau Field to take on the Green Bay Packers, the Bears desperately need Jackson to get cleared if they have any chance of taking down their NFC North rival.
Eddie Jackson has developed into one of the NFL’s top safeties
Following an excellent career at the University of Alabama, Eddie Jackson entered the 2017 NFL draft as one of the top safety prospects. The Florida native ultimately went off the board with the 112th overall pick to the Bears.
Despite his fourth-round pedigree, Jackson has quickly become one of the NFL’s best safeties.
In his rookie year, the 6-foot, 204-pound defensive back started all 16 games and racked up 73 tackles, two interceptions, six passes defended, three fumble recoveries, and two defensive touchdowns.
Jackson followed up with a dominant 2018 campaign that included six interceptions and three more defensive touchdowns. His stellar play helped him earn first-team All-Pro honors and a trip to the Pro Bowl.
Last season, he started all 16 games and earned Pro Bowl honors again. The Bears signed their star safety to a four-year, $58.4 million contract extension back in January. The deal made Jackson the highest-paid safety in the NFL and represented a huge raise for a player whose rookie deal totaled just north of $3 million.
The Bears suffer a significant COVID-19 blow
With Khalil Mack dominating up front and Eddie Jackson patrolling the back end, the Bears have continued to play well on defense in 2020. Chicago currently ranks sixth in points allowed and eighth in passing yards allowed.
However, those rankings could take a tumble this week based on the Bears’ latest bout with COVID-19.
On Monday, the team announced that Jackson has been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Obviously, that puts his availability for Sunday’s game in jeopardy.
Adam Hoge of NBC Sports reported via Twitter that Jackson did not test positive for the coronavirus. Rather, he has been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list “due to a close contact from a person away from the team facility.”
While he must remain away from the team for five days, he could get cleared to play as long as he tests negative. And based on their upcoming opponent, the Bears cannot afford to not have Jackson in the lineup on Sunday.
The timing couldn’t be worse for Chicago
The Bears appeared to be in a good spot through the first six weeks of the season. But after starting the year 5-1, Chicago has lost its last four games.
This week, Matt Nagy’s team will try to get back on track against a Packers squad that should be highly motivated to avenge Sunday’s meltdown against the Indianapolis Colts.
If Eddie Jackson isn’t on the field, the Bears will have a tough time slowing down Aaron Rodgers and the rest of Green Bay’s offense. While Davante Adams draws plenty of attention, this could be a game in which tight end Robert Tonyan feasts.
After entering the year with just 14 career receptions, the 6-foot-5, 237-pounder has racked up 32 catches for 391 yards and six touchdowns. Chicago needs Jackson in the lineup to help slow down the pass-catching weapon. After all, the Bears don’t exactly boast a ton of depth at free safety.
Ultimately, this matchup will go a long way toward determining who wins the NFC North. If Chicago can steal a victory on the road, that puts all the pressure on Green Bay.
But if the Bears lose their fifth straight game, we can safely say they do not deserve to be in the playoff conversation.