Bears

Why speed has been key to Jaylon Johnson's fast start

Bears

It shouldn't be lost on anyone that, through the first two games of the 2020 season, the best player on a Bears defense full of All-Pro talent has been a rookie cornerback. The bar was set pretty high for Jaylon Johnson when Ryan Pace took him in the 2nd round, but it'd be hard for anyone to have predicted just how good he's been so far. Not only has Johnson been Pro Football Focus' highest-graded DB on the Bears' defense, but after eight quarters of pro football, he has the third-best grade of all NFL corners (80.3). 

"The speed isn’t a big difference," Johnson said on Tuesday. "For me, personally, [NFL players] are a lot stronger and a lot bigger, but also that people know exactly what they’re doing – this is their profession. So there are a lot more savvy at what they’re doing and how to attack you." 

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Johnson's already shown a knack for finding the ball, and both his PBUs against the Lions came in pivotal moments. Putting himself in good positions to make plays on the ball has been a priority for him through the first two weeks, he said, and lining up with two-time Pro Bowler and notorious tape grinder Kyle Fuller sure hasn't hurt, either. 

"He doesn't say a lot to me in words actually on the field, but in the meeting room and outside the film room, we talk quite often," Johnson said, who credited Fuller with playing an integral role in making sure he "knows that you've got people around you that you can trust" and "really understanding the scheme of the defense." 

 

The next big test for the rookie comes on Sunday in the form of Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and a (desperate, 0-2) Falcons offense that, at one point this season, ran out 11 first-round draft picks. It'll obviously be Johnson's first time against the future Hall of Famer, but the rookie already knows what to expect. 

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"I didn’t need to dive in to Atlanta. I knew who they were and their style of play way before this game," he said. "They’re definitely explosive players and very savvy route runners and they make every route look the same.

"I mean he's the best and I consider myself one of the best, so we've just got to match up."