2020 NFL Draft: Why Bears were smart to pick Jaylon Johnson in second round

2020 NFL Draft: Why Bears were smart to pick Jaylon Johnson in second round

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. 

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NFL will reportedly cut 2020 preseason in half; will drop Weeks 1 and 4

NFL will reportedly cut 2020 preseason in half; will drop Weeks 1 and 4

It's long been rumored, but on Wednesday things became a bit more official: the NFL will reportedly cut the 2020 preseason in half: 

Shortening the preseason has been a topic of conversation around the league for a while now, but a new urgency has been attached to the idea because of the ongoing the COVID-19 pandemic. As states continue struggling with rising infection rates, beginning the season on time looks more and more unlikely. The NFL has already altered their season schedule to accomodate for a delayed start or early-season interruption. 

It's especially bad news for the Bears, who were planning on using all four preseason games to determine whether Nick Foles or Mitch Trubisky would win the starting quarterback job. Without half their preseason games (they'd lose games against Cleveland and Tennessee), things obviously become much trickier. 

Bears rookie pass rusher Trevis Gipson has talent to contribute quickly

Bears rookie pass rusher Trevis Gipson has talent to contribute quickly

In talking to various trusted football minds around the NFL recently, two common thoughts come up when discussing Bears rookie pass rusher Trevis Gipson:

1. He should have been drafted in the fourth round.
2. He was playing out of position at Tulsa.

It’s very possible that the latter impacted the former. The Bears traded up in the fifth round to draft Gipson at No. 155 overall and they’ve been very decisive with their plan for him – he’s going to be a 3-4 outside linebacker in Chicago.

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Many of the “tweener” pass rush prospects in the NFL Draft play in different fronts in college than they do when they transition to the NFL. In Gipson’s case, he played in a three-man front at Tulsa, but was used more as a five-technique on the line of scrimmage. With the Bears, he’ll be in a base 3-4 defense, but playing a different position on the edge.
You don’t have to watch a lot of tape to understand why Bears general manager Ryan Pace and defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano want to use Gipson on the edge. At 6’6 ⅜” and 261 pounds, he has an 81 ¼” wing span that can’t be taught and his lengthy frame doesn’t give him a lot of leverage when he lines up in tight spaces on the line. He’s better off using that length on the edge and, in my opinion, his best college tape came when he was lined up wide.

Realistic rookie expectations: Gipson is a bit of a project because he’s switching positions and he certainly hasn’t been helped by COVID-19 shutting down offseason practices. But the Bears aren’t asking him to start right away. They have Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn to rush the passer. Gipson has the talent to contribute as a rotational player and perhaps he can provide an occasional spark off the bench. His college production doesn’t lie. Gipson had 12 sacks and 24 tackles for loss in his final two seasons at Tulsa.

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