Competent teams understand that singular plays don’t define whether a draft prospect should be selected or not. One must evaluate the entire body of work to get a proper gauge of somebody. That said, if one play is remarkable enough, that may be the signature moment that sells a team on that player. Such is the case for Jaquan Brisker. GM Ryan Poles alluded to a specific play being the defining moment for the Bears circling the Penn State safety as somebody they wanted.
To drive that point home, area scout John Syty appeared on the latest episode of 1920 Football Drive to break down that same exact play. This is clear evidence of how much the moment impacted the entire Bears personnel department. It came in the 2021 season opener against Wisconsin. The two teams were deadlocked in a 10-10 tie with seven minutes left in the 4th quarter. The Badgers had sustained a 16-play drive covering almost seven minutes of clock. Sitting on their own 8-yard line, the Nittany Lions needed a stop.
After a 3rd down pass fell incomplete, Wisconsin chose to go for it.
The play they drew up was a good one. Quarterback Graham Mertz was to target 6’5 tight end Jake Ferguson who already had seven catches for 37 yards on the afternoon. At the snap, Ferguson beat his defender to the inside. He came open over the middle. All Mertz had to do was throw it, and the touchdown was a certainty. Then, a big #1 in blue and white flashed across the screen to pick it off out of nowhere.
One cannot understate how huge that play was. It prevented a sure touchdown for Wisconsin and led to a touchdown drive for Penn State a couple of minutes later. That was a colossal momentum swing that ensured a 16-10 victory. It never would’ve happened without Brisker making that split-second judgment call.
Jaquan Brisker is the scariest type of safety.
It is in that he has no glaring weakness in his game. Typical safeties fall into one of two categories. Either they’re great athletes with speed and excel in coverage, or they’re big, thumping hitters that thrive around the line of scrimmage. Brisker seems to be that rare breed capable of doing both. He was a physical presence against the run and as a blitzer in college. He also had five interceptions and 14 passes defended over three seasons.
There was no way for offenses to game plan around him. They couldn’t target him in coverage, and they couldn’t render him useless by running the ball more often. Either way, he was going to make life difficult for you. It isn’t hard to understand why The Bears became enamored with him and why he was their #2 prospect behind only Kyler Gordon when they went on the clock last month. Jaquan Brisker can change games.
Fans should keep that in mind.
Game-changers are rare. Having more of them is never a bad thing, regardless of position. If Brisker lives up to his massive potential, the Bears will have a superstar on the back end of their defense for a decade. Think of a bigger, more athletic Mike Brown.