This is CHGO’s Chicago Bears 2022 player preview series. Learn more about each player and what to expect from them this year.
Jaylon Johnson is entering his third season in the NFL after the Chicago Bears drafted him in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
After a promising start to his career, the 23-year-old cornerback is looking to take his game to the next level, all while learning a new defense.
Advanced Stat to Know: Johnson forced an incompletion (FI) on 12 percent of his targets. That ranked 26th amongst corners that played at least 422 coverage snaps. (PFF)
Best Game of 2021
Johnson’s best game came Week 2 against the Cincinnati Bengals. He only allowed two catches on seven targets (28.6%) for seven yards. Johnson also had two pass breakups and his first (and only) career interception. His PFF coverage grade of 92.3 was the highest of the season.
Joe Burrow had a passer rating of 0.0 when targeting Johnson — you read that correctly.
Can Jaylon Johnson reach that “next level“?
Johnson has had a decent start to his career. He’s made plenty of plays on the football, evident by his 24 career passes defended. Although, coming away with more interceptions will be a crucial part of him becoming a more dominant player.
One pick in two seasons is just not enough.
There have been a couple of things holding Johnson back. First, shoulder injuries. Johnson has been battling shoulder injuries since college. Unfortunately, they have followed him so far in his career. Johnson missed four games at the end of his rookie season due to his shoulder.
He’s also had to endure multiple coaching changes. Alan Williams is Johnson’s third defensive coordinator in three seasons. Johnson believes the team’s new defense will put him in a more advantageous position to make more plays on the ball.
“I feel like my role last year following number one wide receivers- I thought there weren’t too many risks you can take,” Johnson told reporters during May’s OTAs. “Depending on what my role is moving forward, depending on the flow of the game, and what I’m being called to do, I feel like they’re different techniques and different risks you can take. But, I definitely don’t think that there were too many more risks I could take last year, always having that prime matchup.”
Having a better supporting cast should help too as Johnson should not be surrounded by Kindle Vildor and Duke Shelley this season. Rookie cornerback Kyler Gordon and whoever wins the slot position (Thomas Graham Jr. vs Tavon Young) both will be legitimate upgrades to the secondary.
And don’t underestimate the impact rookie safety Jaquan Brisker can have on Johnson too.
Even though the Bears are undergoing yet another change of leadership on defense, Chicago’s new scheme will help set up Johnson for success as he thrives in zone coverage, which the Bears will run more of this season.
Beyond the X’s and O’s, Johnson should see improvement by the emphasis the defense will have on aggression and takeaways. We should see Johnson playing with more intensity than in prior seasons. That will be fun to watch.
There is reason to believe that Johnson can elevate his game this year. Can he catch up to some of his peers from the 2020 draft?
A.J. Terrell (16th overall) became one of the best shut-down corners in the league last season, allowing a passer rating of only 47.5 (Johnson’s was 102.8) and had 16 passes defended. Trevon Diggs (51st overall, one pick after Johnson) led the NFL with 11 interceptions.
He may not reach their status, but Johnson should close the gap.
Prediction: Starting CB1.
Stats: 48 Tackles, 10 PBUs, 3 INTs, 55 REC%