Eddie Jackson Says Reinforcements Coming for Bears’ Beleaguered Defense

Bears Eddie Jackson

The Chicago Bears fought valiantly against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 5. They rallied from a 21-3 deficit to take a 22-21 lead in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, their efforts fell short. A late touchdown drive by Minnesota was met with an untimely mental error from wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette, who was claimed off waivers from Minnesota in early September.

But even before that, the Bears were only able to get back into the game after solving the riddle to Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson. The third-year man out of LSU racked up 12 catches on 13 targets for 154 yards.

He was held scoreless on the day. But the Bears’ defense was cut up in the first half. It then allowed Kirk Cousins to throw for 57 of his 79 second-half passing yards on that touchdown drive.

The Bears came into the game short-handed in the secondary again. Cornerback Jaylon Johnson remained out with a quad injury suffered in Week 2. After Sunday’s loss, Bears safety Eddie Jackson – who finished with eight solo tackles – spoke with the media in the locker room. He said Johnson’s return is imminent.

Bears S Eddie Jackson Says Jaylon Johnson Will Return vs WAS

Eddie Jackson Breaks News

“When you have a guy like that out you miss him every game – week in, week out. You know what Jaylon can do. He shut down any No. 1 receiver, easy. So, just trying to get him healthy, get him back, it’s going to help us out. But it’s always that ‘next man up’ mentality. We got a lot of young guys that got to step up and continue to learn. When a guy like Jaylon is out, it’s always tough but happy to get him back next week, for sure.”

It’s hard to quantify how strong Johnson is in coverage this season. The two games he’s played have come in a deluge at Soldier Field against the San Francisco 49ers in the opener and then against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers who avoided him most of Week 2.

On the season, he has been targeted just four times allowing two receptions for 28 yards and a 72.8 quarterback rating. But last season, as the defense was collapsing around him, Johnson allowed 59.7% completion in his coverage. He was one of 14 corners to hold opposing passers below 60% and just 0.5% worse than Los Angeles Rams corner Jalen Ramsey.

Of course, head coach Matt Eberflus was less committal so we will have to wait for official word that Johnson will return before getting too excited.

“We just got to do what we do and play our game the way we play it and everything else will take care of itself,” Jackson said. “Felt like we kind of got off track with that a little bit. Then, second half got back on track. I mean, we didn’t come up with the win. But we kind of contained them.”

Kindle Vildor’s Big Moment

They did do much better in the second half thanks in large part to one of the young players stepping up. Kindle Vildor is in his third NFL season as a former fifth-round pick out of Georgia Southern University. He is also in his second year as a starter for the Bears after starting 12 games of his 15 games last season and all five this year.

It has been an up-and-down experience for Vildor just as it has for the entire defense.

Johnson was avoided when he was on the field. Vildor has been targeted 18 times in five games and is allowing completions 66.7% of the time.

But he stepped up when the Bears needed it most, coming away with an interception early in the fourth quarter on a pass Cousins tried to get greedy and force a pass to wide receiver Adam Thielen.

It was the first takeaway of his career and Jackson was sure to shout him out.

“That was nice man, that was nice. That was a great play by Kindle. Great read. Like I said, they hit us a few times on the boots. So, for him to go make that type of play and give us back that momentum and kind of change the game, that was a huge, huge play. I’m happy for him – his first career interception. So, you know happy for him. It just hurts, you know, sucks when you come up short. Making plays like that, you can’t really enjoy it as much as you would with a win.”

Vildor also tallied three solo tackles and six total stops against the Vikings.

Kyler Gordon Settles In

The only Bears player targeted more than the 5-foot-10 Vildor has been rookie Kyler Gordon. He is closer to doubling his teammate’s total than matching it having been targeted a whopping 29 times this season.

Only 10 other corners have been targeted more. But Gordon is the only one in that group allowing 10 yards per target.

To add context to how often he is being picked on, the Bears’ defense ranks ninth against the pass in terms of yards allowed. But they have also faced the third-fewest passing attempts because they have been gashed on the ground leading to them also having the NFL’s 31st-ranked rush defense.

They still rank 22nd in net yards per pass attempt.

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Opponents haven’t always needed to. But when opponents have wanted to go to the air on the Bears, they have found success attacking Gordon.

That is a tough spot for a rookie. But he posted his best grade from Pro Football Focus of the season overall as well as in coverage in this game. He also nearly blocked a Vikings field goal attempt and came close to having an interception with the possibility to score.

Eberflus said Gordon was having a “pretty typical” start to his career for a rookie but, perhaps, this game was a sign he is settling into the NFL.

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