May 20, 2024

Bears Analysis

Top 25 most important Bears in 2022: No. 9 Jaylon Johnson

Chicago Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson covers Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Sammy Watkins during their game Sunday, Nov. 22, 2021, at Soldier Field in Chicago.

Shaw Local is counting down the top 25 most important Bears for the 2022 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 2022 (or maybe he will be), but he certainly is among the most important.

No. 9 Jaylon Johnson

Position: Cornerback

NFL experience: Third season

Last year’s ranking: No. 10

Looking back: Cornerback Jaylon Johnson’s season was one of the few bright spots for the Bears’ secondary in 2022, and there’s still room to grow. Without Kyle Fuller locking things down on the opposite side, as the Bears had during Johnson’s rookie season in 2020, it became too easy for opponents to avoid throwing near Johnson. Look no further than the December loss to the Packers at Lambeau Field. Johnson shadowed Packers receiver Davante Adams everywhere except when Adams lined up in the slot. So the Packers lined up Adams in the slot more and more as the game went on. Although Adams had a monster game, Johnson actually defended him well when they were matched up.

Johnson finished his season with one interception, 46 combined tackles, nine passes defended and one forced fumble. Most importantly, he remained healthy. His only absence was a two-game stretch because of COVID-19.

Looking forward: A significantly bolstered secondary and a new scheme should give Johnson an opportunity to shine under head coach Matt Eberflus. The Bears drafted cornerback Kyler Gordon out of Washington in April. Opponents still might avoid throwing near Johnson, but the Bears believe Gordon will perform better than Kindle Vildor or Artie Burns did in that role last season. If it works out, it will benefit everyone on the defense.

Bears players have so far hailed the new scheme as simpler, more straightforward, back-to-basics football. The Bears are working hard to develop a nickel corner so that Johnson doesn’t have to fill in that role. Johnson tried it at various times last season against opponents’ top receivers with varying levels of success. If Thomas Graham Jr. or Tavon Young can become that lock-down nickel, that takes another thing off Johnson’s mental plate. Johnson could be poised for a big season in Year 3.

Eberflus has put an emphasis on creating turnovers. Johnson is one of the players they likely want to see around the ball more. He has one career interception and one forced fumble in two seasons.

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

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.