There's a saying that goes, "if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best."
That's exactly what Jaylon Johnson plans to do on Sunday when the Chicago Bears face off with the Atlanta Falcons and their high-powered offense.
Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. MST in Atlanta.
Johnson, a rookie from the University of Utah, will go up against arguably the best wide receiver duo in the NFL in Julio Jones (the NFL's best wide receiver) and Calvin Ridley (one of top youngsters in the league). Regardless of who Johnson finds himself covering, he's got his hands full as both are proven playmakers and looking to help Atlanta break it's two-game losing streak to start the season.
"Just being able to match up against arguably one of the best receivers of this generation, I mean, being able to line up against him and then Calvin Ridley is an upcoming star, as well," Johnson said. "They're definitely explosive players and very savvy route runners. And they make every route look the same. It's just about having eye discipline and just trying to stay attached."
Just because he's going up against the best, it doesn't mean that Johnson will be wide-eyed when he sees somebody he's long-admired lining up across from. In order to be successful, Johnson knew he must get rid of those wide eyes the second he set foot in the NFL because that's how mistakes happen — and that's exactly what he's done.
"No, not since I've gotten to the NFL," Johnson said. "I did as a kid in high school and maybe in college but at the end of the day he bleeds the same way I bleed so I'm just going to go out there and compete. I mean he's the best and I consider myself one of the best so we've just got to match up."
Johnson has every right to call himself one of the best, as there's little argument that he's been the best defensive back of the 2020 rookie class thus far.
Despite being the seventh cornerback chosen in the draft, one could make the argument that Johnson has performed getter than any of those chosen ahead of him, including first-rounders Jeff Okudah (Detroit), A.J. Terrell (Atlanta), Damon Arnette (Las Vegas) and Noah Igbinoghene (Miami).
He currently allowing a lower passer rating than all of those chosen ahead of him with a 64.2 rating. It should be noted that all of the cornerbacks chosen in the first round are currently allowing passing ratings over 110.
Early on, Johnson has allowed just three catches on seven potential targets for 55 yards. He also has five pass break-ups, which is the most by a rookie cornerback since Baltimore's Marcus Peters had seven through his first two games back in 2015.
He credits his early success to going against quarterback Mitch Trubisky and wide receiver Allen Robinson in fall camp.
"I would just say I came along just in the mental aspect of being able to learn the defense, being able to feel out NFL offenses and going against Nick Foles and Mitch (Trubisky) every day, it just pushes you to be better just to try to figure out what offenses are trying to do to attack me," Johnson said. "But going against Allen Robinson and all the top wide receivers that we have just pushes your game and elevates your game to the next level. So naturally, going against good competition every day elevated my game."
Johson's production has been the best in the Bears secondary so far, according to Pro Football Focus' grading system. Sportradar, the NFL's official stat partner, has Johnson allowing only 46.2% completions and a 70.7 passer rating against when targeted.
Only time will tell if Johnson is as good as the Bears think he is — but if he is to take that next step forward, it comes on Sunday.
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