Bears’ Eddie Jackson: ‘Licking my chops’ to face Joe Flacco

Jackson is ready for Browns quarterback Joe Flacco to try to throw deep.

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Bears safety Eddie Jackson runs against the Lions.

Bears safety Eddie Jackson runs against the Lions.

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Bears safety Eddie Jackson is ready for Browns quarterback Joe Flacco to try to throw deep Sunday.

“I go in licking my chops,” Jackson said this week. “Hey, look, that ball is going to be in the air.”

Flacco, the 38-year-old veteran now in his 16th NFL season, always is looking downfield. The Bears, who have forced 11 turnovers over their last three games, can’t wait to see him do it some more.

“I feel like he’s like [the Vikings’] Kirk Cousins, where if you let him sit back there and be comfortable, he’ll rip you apart,” said Jackson, who was tied for third in the league with four interceptions last year but has none this season. “If you give him a little bit of pressure and get him uncomfortable, mistakes start to unroll.”

The Bears have reason to be greedy. They’re one of only two teams this year with at least two interceptions in three straight games. They’ve also forced at least three turnovers in each of their last three games. Only six other teams since 2020 can say that.

Flacco, however, might be the wrong person to supply with bulletin-board material. His résumé — 16 career playoff games, although he’s almost 11 years removed from winning a Super Bowl with the Ravens — would make him the best quarterback in Bears history.

Just last month, it seemed his career was kaput. After playing sparingly in parts of the previous three seasons with the Jets, he wasn’t a member of any team at the start of this season and even tried out for a TV gig with “Inside the NFL.” The Browns signed him to their practice squad in Week 11 after losing Deshaun Watson to a season-ending shoulder injury. Two weeks later, Flacco made his first start. After his second on Sunday, coach Kevin Stefanski named him the starter for the rest of the season. And on Thursday, the Browns officially signed him to the 53-man roster, giving him a contract that promises him $75,000 for every game he wins the rest of the regular season, plus more for playoff victories.

If the Browns are successful, it will be because of Flacco’s willingness to go deep.

“He doesn’t really want to do checkdowns,” Jackson said.

In his first start, a loss to the Rams on Dec. 3, Flacco threw 19 passes longer than 10 yards in the air, the most of any Browns quarterback in five years. The next week in a win over the Jaguars, he threw 15.

“He stretches the whole part of the field,” Bears coach Matt Eberflus said. “It’s not just vertically — it’s horizontally, as well. There are certain quarterbacks that only throw in between the hashes, in between the numbers, and you can certainly pack the paint, so to speak, on that, but he makes you defend the whole field.”

Flacco averaged 7.8 air yards per pass against the Rams and 5.8 against the Jaguars. Both were more than what Watson, Dorian Thompson-Robinson and P.J. Walker averaged before Flacco’s arrival.

“We all know he’s got a strong arm,” Bears defensive tackle Justin Jones said. “But he’s been around a long time, so his IQ is as dangerous as his arm.” 

Flacco is the latest unlikely starter in a season of almost unprecedented NFL quarterback turnover. The Cinderellas typically fade — most notably Josh Dobbs, whom the Bears held to 10 points and the Vikings benched the next game.

Jackson said he has been impressed with how often backups have won games fresh off the bench.

“Obviously, later on they come and unveil themselves for what they really are,” he said.

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