Safety Jaquan Brisker, a 2022 second-round draft pick of the Bears, generated impact plays immediately as a rookie and finished the season with four sacks to lead the team. Brisker joins Dave Duerson in 1986 and Todd Bell in 1984 as the only defensive backs in franchise history to record four or more sacks in a single season.
Starting 15 games this season - missing two while being concussion protocol - Brisker spent the most time on the field of any defensive player. He played 100 percent of the defensive snaps in all but three of his 15 games, never missing more than four percent of the snaps. On Jan. 1, Brisker told reporters he takes "pride in taking a lot of snaps and playing throughout the whole year," noting he was bothered by missing games due to injury.
Brisker finished the season as the Bears' second-leading tackler behind linebacker Nicholas Morrow, totaling 103 tackles and 73 solo - the third most among all NFL rookies during the regular season. The Penn State product recorded the Bears' first takeaway of the season with a fumble recovery against the 49ers and showed off his athleticism by grabbing a one-handed interception versus the Patriots Bears' Monday night win Oct. 24, marking his first career pick.
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Due to his consistent improvement throughout the season and flashes of playmaking ability, ChicagoBears.com has selected Brisker the Bears Rooke of the Year for 2022.
At the beginning of December, defensive coordinator Alan Williams reflected on Brisker's growth over the course of his rookie year, which he said was visible in the safety's attention to detail.
"Starting off, we all knew he was physical, and he would hit and he would run to the ball," Williams said. "Starting off, it was just that. See ball, get ball. Now I started to see him getting to the ball with a purpose within the scope of the defense and being on the details, and not just running to the football, but running to the football within the scope of the defense.
"So you started to see him being more detailed in knowing not just...some guys just get lined up because, 'hey, the coach told me to line up here.' Now he's getting lined up and knowing the whys and adding his little flair to it, so to speak, in terms of what he was doing. So we started seeing little bits and pieces of growth in that department."
Brisker also became a force in the backfield of the Bears' 4-3 defense, tallying four quarterback hits and five tackles for loss. The safety's versatility allowed for Williams to progressively move Brisker around throughout the season, having him play inside the box, defend slot receivers and send him to blitz.
"It's about continuing to improve and do a really good job with his blitzing," coach Matt Eberflus said in mid-December. "He's a really good blitzer. We like to send him a lot. We're pleasantly surprised where he is, where he's grown to. Every time we've asked him to do something to get better at, he's done it."
Throughout the year, Eberflus often complimented Brisker's mental and physical toughness while also enjoying the rookie's desire to get better and learn from coaches and veterans.
Defensive lineman Justin Jones - a fifth-year pro - expressed his appreciation for Brisker during a press conference on Nov. 21. Jones said he felt Brisker never hit a rookie wall and plays with a different speed then most first-year players.
Teammates and coaches took notice of Brisker's potential since the Pittsburgh native hit the practice field during training camp. Veteran safety Eddie Jackson built a strong relationship with Brisker early in the summer, as the pair often watched film and spent time together away from the facility.
"I'm excited for that, man," Jackson said on Aug. 24. "That's my boy. That's my boy, man. It's like little brother and me. We've got a strong connection off the field as well, so I'm excited, and just to see what he's capable of doing and just to see the type of dog he has in him. He's a feisty guy, man. He wants to hit every play. To have a guy like that is exciting."
Bears tight end Cole Kmet also applauded Brisker during training camp, saying: "he's a physical player, likes playing in the box, which I respect as a tight end. He's one to come down and hit you, but definitely a good player and [I] respect his game."