Eddie Jackson

Kam Kinchens, an Eddie Jackson mentee, ready to take over for veteran if Bears call

The Bears are on the look for a long-term replacement for Eddie Jackson

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INDIANAPOLIS -- Bears general manager Ryan Poles has rebuilt Chicago's secondary over the last two offseasons.

But after cutting veteran safety Eddie Jackson, Poles still has one more hole to fill in the back end. Finding a long-term answer at free safety is a new arrival on the Bears' to-do list, but it's an important one to check off as their rebuild enters its next phase.

"You're looking for a guy that pairs well with [Jaquan Brisker]," Bears head coach Matt Eberflus said Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine. "Jaquan is a guy that's a strong safety. He comes down on tight ends. He's a big hammer. The guy that we would be looking for has to have athletic ability, he's got to have range, he's got to have great communication skills, he's got to have ball skills. We want all of our guys to have the ability to take the ball away. He's got to have that too. Then eventually grow into a leader. If it's a free agent, he is gonna have to feel the temperature of the room and then dive into the leadership role. If he's a rookie, then he's gonna have to develop with the other guys."

Jackson played an essential role in the Bears' rebuild. He was one of the few veterans Poles chose to keep on when he arrived, and Jackson fully bought into Eberflus' philosophy and resurrected his career in 2022. Jackson mentored Brisker and paired well with the 2022 second-round pick in the back end. Brisker's physicality and desire to play down in the box freed Jackson up to roam in the back end and rely on his instincts and ball-hawk tendencies.

A foot injury zapped Jackson of some of his natural athleticism, and the Bears had to move on from this offseason to free up necessary cap space.

As the Bears look for a long-term replacement for Jackson, a young safety he has mentored might wind up filling his shoes.

Miami safety Kamren Kinchens.

Kinchens, a Miami native, knows Jackson as part of the South Florida football bubble. Jackson played his high school football at Boyd H. Anderson High School in Lauderdale Lakes, Fla. Their paths crossed as Jackson ascended to become a Pro Bowl safety with the Bears and Kinchens started his ascent at Miami.

"I know him personally. He used to train back down in Miami," Kinchens said of Jackson at the NFL Scouting Combine on Thursday.

Regarding the possibility of taking over for Jackson in Chicago, Kinchens said he'd pick up the phone and start picking the veteran's brain should that scenario come to pass.

"Ask him all the details," Kinchens said with a smile. "Find the loop holes to the NFL."

Kinchens is a fluid athlete with great instincts, ball skills, and the versatility to excel in man or zone coverage. Draft experts have compared him to Darnell Savage, and Kinchens' ability to create turnovers would mesh well with Eberflus' H.I.T.S philosophy.

"I think my instincts. I think my aggressiveness," KInchens said about his best attributes. "I'm gonna have to learn how to control so I won't be taking too many risks. But learning how to take risks and elevate - no bad plays. Just have those good to average plays and then you have those flash great plays."

Kinchens notched five interceptions, five passes defensed, one fumble recovery, and one touchdown this past season for the Hurricanes.

The ball skills, play recognition, high motor, and physicality check the boxes the Bears are looking for in a long-term replacement for Jackson.

One of Jackson's South Florida mentees might end up being the Bears' best option to fill the void left by the veteran safety's release -- if they can find the second-round pick that will likely be required to secure him.

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