Jaylon Johnson Earns Rave Reviews for Debut

Gene Chamberlain

Jaylon Johnson set as a goal heading into this season of winning defensive rookie of the year honors.

Apparently he's in the family photo after Week 1.

Johnson even caught the eye of Pro Football Focus, making it among the 10 highest graded rookies for Week 1 with a performance PFF said included just two catches allowed in six targets over 43 coverage reps. Officially, Johnson made two passes defensed, including the game-clinching play as time expired in the end zone.

Johnson received a 75.6 PFF grade for the game.

"To be able to carry it from practice to a live when-it-all-counts situation shows you that he's going to be really good," Bears defensive backs coach Deshea Townsend said. "There's some plays that we want to make—we're going to have some corrections where we can play better.

"That's the great thing, because he played pretty solid and we still have a lot of room to improve."

The PFF grade can take into account only what actually happened on the field and what didn't, or what could have been.

What would have happened if the Lions had receiver Kenny Golladay available, no one knows. He missed the game with a hamstring injury. So when Johnson wasn't being tested by Marvin Jones Jr., the Lions' best shot on that side of the field was a tight end or a running back.

"His coverage grade on the outside ranked eighth in the NFL in Week 1, one spot behind teammate Kyle Fuller," PFF wrote. "With his sharp instincts, physicality and playmaking instincts, Johnson looks like a real difference-maker in the Bears' secondary."

The dropped pass by D'Andre Swift would have made everyone on that side of the field look bad but Johnson's coverage assignment on the play took him away from that pass and it was Buster Skrine and Tashaun Gipson scrambling to get over to cover Swift, before his drop.

Johnson actually had a role in creating the interception that let the Bears take the lead for good. He had a hand in while Eddie Jackson also put his in coming across from the opposite side while Jones tried to make a catch over the middle, causing the ball to hit Johnson hard and bounce high into the air, where Fuller picked it off.

The Bears held Jones to four catches for 55 yards and it would have been easy to anticipate more considering he had to step up into Golladay's role as their chief receiving threat. The performance by Johnson went a long way toward fixing this.

The big surprise about Johnson's effort was he obviously had no preseason games or offseason work, but he also didn't even get into the mix during full-squad scrimmage at practice until the final week of training camp as the team brought him along slowly following offseason shoulder surgery.

While Stafford threw for 297 yards on 24 of 42, he had only a 77.2 passer rating against the Bears secondary on a day when it received little support from the pass rush.

Johnson probably drew more attention nationally for a negative play. Jones more or less "trucked" Johnson on one short play. Johnson came up and missed on the tackle as he looked like a bug on the front of a semi, getting completely bounced.

"I think the biggest thing is, you show me a corner that has never been run over and I'll show you a corner that hasn't really played," Townsend said. "So that's going to happen to us eventually. But the one thing about him is his mental makeup, he's able. It didn’t faze him throughout the entire game, the ups and downs that happen to us.

"I texted him after the game. I told him that's the life of an NFL corner."


Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven

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