September 22, 2021


Top 25 most important Bears in 2021: No. 10 Jaylon Johnson

With Kyle Fuller gone, Johnson steps into No. 1 spot on cornerback depth chart

Leading up to Bears training camp in late July, Shaw Local is counting down the top 25 most important Bears for the 2021 season.

What makes one player more important than another? That’s subjective, of course. But for our purposes it comes down to this: Are the Bears worse off if this player can’t play? Does this player have untapped potential or past greatness to live up to? Is his story going to be one fans follow closely this season?

For example, Justin Fields might not be the best player on the Bears in 2021 (or maybe he will be), but he certainly is among the most important.

No. 10 Jaylon Johnson

Position: Cornerback

NFL experience: Second season

Looking back: The Bears selected cornerback Jaylon Johnson out of Utah seven picks after they chose tight end Cole Kmet from Notre Dame in the 2020 draft. Johnson impressed everyone immediately. He was the seventh cornerback selected in the draft but turned in one of the best rookie seasons of the bunch. Only a shoulder injury, which knocked him out for the final three games and the playoffs, hampered Johnson’s rookie season.

Johnson wound up with a team-leading 15 passes defended. He totaled 42 tackles and started all 13 games before his injury. The shoulder injury was a bit concerning, given that Johnson had a history of shoulder injuries before his NFL career.

Looking forward: The only glaring hole for the Bears’ defense is the one left behind by departed All-Pro cornerback Kyle Fuller. With Fuller gone, there is going to be a lot more pressure on Johnson to hold down his side of the field. He proved he could do it in 2020, with few mistakes over the course of the season. Now he will have to do it with some uncertainty at the other cornerback spot, where free agent signing Desmond Trufant seems likely to start.

Of paramount importance will be staying on the field. If Johnson goes down with another injury, that cornerback room starts to look thin quickly. The Bears’ 10 interceptions on defense tied the team for 23rd in the NFL. That number simply wasn’t good enough, especially given the talent in that secondary. Johnson still is looking for his first NFL interception. The Bears need somebody in the secondary to create takeaways. Doing so would elevate Johnson’s game to the next level.

In case you missed it: Previous installments of the top 25

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for Shaw Media. He also contributes to high school football coverage at Friday Night Drive. Sean has covered various sports at the amateur, college and professional levels since 2012. He joined Shaw Media in 2016.