Jaylon Johnson looks like a perfect fit for what the Bears need on defense.
A preference for playing press coverage, but the ability to do everything? Check. A hard-nosed, competitive nature? Check. The athleticism to go step-for-step with anyone he covers? Check. Toughness against the run? Check. Good ball skills? Check.
All those traits should make Johnson a starter from Day 1 of his NFL career. He’ll have to earn it, of course, by beating out Kevin Toliver II, Artie Burns and Tre Roberson. But for the corner replacing Prince Amukamara — the crafty, often underappreciated veteran cut in February — Johnson feels like the ideal kind of guy.
“I'm a baller,” Johnson said. “I’m a real strong competitor. At Utah, I had to be the No. 1 corner and going out every week and shutting down No. 1 wide receivers. I'm used to getting after it. I'm used to challenging guys. I never shy down from competition. In big games, there was never a time I didn't show up and make plays.”
[Analysis: Who are the Bears getting in Jaylon Johnson?]
The biggest question about Johnson, though, is with his shoulders. He’s had three surgeries on his shoulders in the last four years, including a procedure to repair a torn labrum following the 2020 NFL Combine. That is probably why he was still available at pick No. 50 and was the sixth cornerback taken in this year’s draft.
Johnson thinks he should’ve been a first-round pick and said he’s not going to forget how far he slid: “That's what I'm going to do, all I can to make teams regret the decision,” he said.
That sort of chip-on-your-shoulder competitiveness will help Johnson fit in quickly in the Bears’ locker room. But what he put on tape at Utah matters more, and here’s why it makes him such an enticing fit:
The Bears’ defense was, realistically, missing a cornerback. It needs a safety, too, but Ryan Pace found Day 3 value there (Adrian Amos, Jackson). It’s more important to find a corner — especially one who can thrive closer to the line of scrimmage, allowing Fuller to play off — to complement what should be an awesome pass rush.
If Johnson can hold his own, opposing teams will have neither a corner to pick on nor much time to get the ball out with Mack, Hicks and Quinn bearing down.
So Johnson not only fills a need, but you can argue he was truly the best player available at No. 50. There’s some risk with Johnson’s shoulders, but good on the Bears for not overthinking this and getting a good, solid player who should make this team better in 2020 and beyond.