Eddie Jackson, Elijah Wilkinson make timely return to Bears

NFL Destination Football

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP)Safety Eddie Jackson is proof the Chicago Bears have started the process of regaining their health.

After a start to training camp when they temporarily lost both starting safeties, the top five tackles on their roster, and several inside linebackers, the Bears had a few players back on Tuesday in time to start a week of practices leading up to their first preseason game Saturday, against the Miami Dolphins.

Jackson playing in the deep secondary might have been the most welcome sight, but considering the Bears had 21 players not at one weekend practice it’s difficult to say.

”Just watching my teammates compete and not being able to join them, just itching to be in there, that was the toughest part,” Jackson said.

An All-Pro in 2018, Jackson went without an interception for the first time in his career in 2020 and was looking to rebound before suffering a pulled hamstring working out on his own just prior to the start of training camp. When the Bears also lost strong safety Tashaun Gipson to a groin injury after a few days of camp, they were counting on backups Deon Bush and DeAndre Houston-Carson at safety.

”This offseason was a real grind for me,” Jackson said. ”I feel like I probably worked the hardest I’ve ever worked in the offseason. So things like that sort of happen. I wasn’t too concerned about it because I was still doing everything.”

By that, Jackson meant he was staying involved in the defensive huddle and the defensive calls in practices. So the return can be rapid.

”It’s keeping that mental part up, being on top of the plays, the keys, certain formations so when you go in there you don’t miss a beat,” Jackson said. ”It’s hard for some guys to adjust being out and not being able to be out there and go through the motions with the team, to see the right adjustments.”

It’s difficult for the Bears at tackle because they’ve been without second-round draft pick Teven Jenkins (back), backup tackle Elijah Wilkinson (reserve/COVID-19 list), fifth-round draft pick Larry Borom (concussion), tackle Lachavious Simmons (concussion) and starting right tackle Germain Ifedi (hip-flexor). They have relied on guards at both tackle positions in practice.

With rookie quarterback Justin Fields and veteran Andy Dalton expected to make their Bears debuts in Saturday’s preseason game, coaches would like to know they will be protected.

Wilkinson’s return on Tuesday was just in the nick of time.

”With numbers, getting him back is key, just because we were getting low there,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. ”Coming into this camp he was the starting left tackle. He understands that it is a competition, so he’s probably champing at the bit right now to get out there and continue to compete.”

Jenkins hasn’t been able to practice at all due to his ailing back, and it appears nothing has changed.

”I think right now it would probably be the same as where he was,” Nagy said ”We’re still working through it.”

The original plan called for Jenkins to be the starter, but Nagy doesn’t seem to have a problem with starting Wilkinson there if necessary, even though he has only started at right tackle or at guard in the NFL.

”So he’s learning techniques from (line coach) Juan (Castillo), but he’s willing and I think that’s all you can say is if he’s willing to do it, just keep doing it.,’ Nagy said. ”And again, you’re going up against some pretty good rush ends.”

NOTES

Linebacker Danny Trevathan was held out of Tuesday’s light practice with knee soreness. … Linebacker Alec Ogletree went without an interception in Tuesday’s practice, which doesn’t sound unusual. However, he had made at least one in each of his first four practices since signing with the Bears, and had six total. … Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin missed practice due to foot soreness and a contusion.

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