by Daniel Olsen | While these aren’t the 1985 Bears, they do look very promising sitting at 3-0. One of those reasons is a solid young defense with a bright future ahead. One of the brightest stars is starting rookie cornerback Jaylon Johnson.
Johnson topped the long list of seven Utes drafted in the 2020 NFL draft. The Chicago Bears drafted him in the second round. He was drafted ahead of other stout defenders and leading rusher in Ute history, Zack Moss.
What is most impressive is that Johnson became the first Bears rookie cornerback to start on opening day since Walt Harris in 1996. The Bears were lucky to discover his talent; Johnson was the sixth cornerback drafted. The Bears may have selected the best one out of the draft at least based on his performance so far.
Clearly the Bears saw something special in Johnson, who filled a weakness in their defense. The Bears came off a disappointing 8-8 season and needed to bolster their defense a little more. They were good, but only had one elite corner in right cornerback Kyle Fuller.
Fuller did make the Pro Bowl in the last two seasons and has had his share of interceptions and overall shut-down coverage of opponents. When opposing quarterbacks are looking to make a play, they tend to avoid throwing into the direction of this seven year pro.
For this reason, Johnson has had plenty of targets thrown his way to start his rookie season. He was trucked by Marvin Jones Jr. of the Detroit Lions in Week 1. He recovered from this moment though and made the deflection to prevent a game-winning touchdown from Stanford to Jones. It’s safe to say Johnson got the last laugh.
In his second game against the Giants, Johnson shined again as he added to his total with four tackles and two pass deflections. He helped lead the Bears to their best defensive performance of the year in a 17-13 victory. This was the best passing defense as well. The Bears allowed a season best 220 yards in the air.
After Week 2, Johnson had the third highest graded cornerback score in the NFL score per Pro Football Focus. He was also the second highest graded rookie defender by PFF. Only first overall pick Chase Young received a better grade.
Week 3 was also a great performance by Johnson. He faced the toughest receivers of the year. Even though Julio Jones is sidelined with a nagging hamstring injury, Calvin Ridley was the toughest receiver the Bears faced this year.
Johnson defended Ridley in impressive fashion. Ridley didn’t find the end zone once even though he had two receiving touchdowns in each of his first two games.
The Bears improved to 3-0 in the 30-26 victory while the Falcons fell to 0-3. Both teams have been heading in different directions and it all boils down to smart decisions and stout defense.
Since his high school days in Fresno, Johnson has displayed the quiet confidence that coaches rave about. While he is the best shutdown corner in his rookie class, there is still room for improvement. He has yet to record the coveted cornerback stat: The Interception.
Johnson will have his time. For now he flies under the radar with star teammates on the defense like Khalil Mack and Fuller getting most of the praise. Ute fans know the guy who had 102 tackles, 21 passes deflected, seven interceptions and two touchdowns. That guy is Johnson and his goal is to help the Bears shuffle on back to the Super Bowl.
Featured image via Utah Athletics.