The Bears defense faced an offseason of doubt after former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio left town for the Denver Broncos head coaching job. Despite an impressive resume for new DC Chuck Pagano, a regression on that side of the ball was predicted.
After the first four games of 2019, outside linebacker Khalil Mack and the Bears appeared to silence the doubters. In fact, there was a growing narrative that this year's defense could actually be better than the legendary 1985 Super Bowl team.
Then came Week 5's shocker against the Oakland Raiders, when rookie running back Josh Jacobs ran for 123 yards and turned Chicago's defense into Swiss cheese. The bye week was supposed to offer the Bears the remedy it needed on both sides of the ball, but in Week 7 against the Saints, the defense turned in its worst performance in nearly two seasons.
"How are we going to respond?" Jackson said. "Not the coaches. This is like (on) the players -- we got to call upon ourselves. We've got to call a meeting amongst players and say, 'Look, enough is enough.' We know the type of team we have. I don't want to hear about coaching, playcalling. If you watch the game, you have to see the swagger wasn't out there. The pride of the game, everyone flying around, the energy that coach (Matt) Nagy talks about -- we don't have that right now.
"It's like when something goes bad, everybody puts their head down. It's sad, because the type of players and type of team that we have is too good for that. So I feel like this is for us -- this is for us players to call on each other without the coaches Tuesday, to come in and just talk, just have a little players' meeting if we have to just to see what we have to do to get it rolling."
The Bears' struggles on offense have dominated the conversation around this team in recent weeks, but the defense hasn't done its part in the last two losses. Maybe it's because the offense has sucked the life out of Mack, Jackson and the rest of Chicago's defensive studs.
Jackson suggested a players-only meeting is needed for the Bears to get back on track. It isn't an indictment on Nagy or the rest of the coaching staff for an idea like that to be proposed, but it does suggest there's clearly an issue that needs to be addressed in the locker room. If Jackson sees his teammates falling short of 100 percent effort, that's a problem. And while Nagy preaches positivity and puts an optimistic spin on everything, he has to make sure he isn't missing obvious signs that his message is falling on deaf ears.
"We just gotta come in and get better," Jackson said. "We just got to come in starting tomorrow, have a meeting with us just to see what our identity is, what we're going to do, how we're going to respond."