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Another New Role for Jaylon Johnson

2022 Bears Projection: Jaylon Johnson's role for 2022 is a bit undefined at this point but after being the rookie and then the defender of each team's best receiver, it's likely to be an all-new challenge.

A second year in the NFL when he had to chase around opponents best receivers the Bears faced did nothing to diminish Jaylon Johnson's confidence.

"I feel the same," Johnson said. "I feel confident as ever. I don't feel like there's nothing I can't do."

Even a new defensive scheme unlike the one Johnson broke in with hasn't changed his attitude. In fact, it might do more to help him because he'll no longer be forced to trail one top opposing receiver all over the field like in 2021 when the entire secondary struggled.

Johnson essentially became a man-to-man cornerback and the man he faced often ranked with some of the league's best. It was a tough assignment but now the Bears are going to be heavily in zone coverage and looking at the quarterbacks. Making breaks on the ball should, in theory, be easier. It will look like he's taking more risks than last year, although it's probably simply more likely he'll be in better position to go after the football.

"I feel like my role last year following No. 1 wide receivers, I feel like there's not too many risks you can take," Johnson said.

Coaches looked extensively at Johnson in minicamp and OTAs as a right cornerback after an injury to rookie Kyler Gordon, who had started out at right cornerback.

How they'll play the two cornerbacks is one of the pressing questions for training camp. They've not seen either at left cornerback. It's even possible one could move to slot corner. Whatever is decided, Johnson thinks he'll be ready.

"It's a complete reset," Johnson said. "Everything Ive done in the past with the other coaches, with the other staff, I mean, it really doesn't mean anything too much. I mean, the film is not going to lie to you. But at the end of the day, they want me to show them what I can do in person moving forward."

It's definitely a healthy and the right attitude for a cornerback who has gone through two seasons with one interception, 24 pass breakups and what official NFL stat partner Sportradar reports was a respectable 58% completion percentages against when targeted.

Then again, it wasn't like Johnson was a lockdown cornerback because the same stat service credted him with five TD passes allowed in each of his first two seasons.

It is the price for being put on the best receiver all of the time, and there was no doubt Johnson was the Bears cornerback last year if not in his rookie year, as well.

On pass defense last year, the Bears showed up as third-best in yards allowed but it disguised the fact they had the worst passer rating against in the league.

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"(Deleted), I mean, I felt like I was struggling too," Johnson said. "At the end of the day, we're all in this together. We just got to be on one page. I feel like a lot of things were more mental than physical things."

It's here where the new defensive system is supposed to help as it simplies roles to let defenders get to the ball faster. After a slow start because he wasn't at voluntary camp and had to learn the calls, coach Matt Eberflus seemed convinced Johnson could be part of what the future holds.

"It takes him a while to learn the defense, because he just was coming in, so that takes a couple of days to figure you (are), 'Hey what is this call? What is that call?' " Eberflus said And he's done a great job."

So Johnson has gone from a less comfortable rookie trying to impress, to the guy who gets the best receiver all over the field and now perhaps he'll settle into a new role yet to be defined in his third season like being himself.

The defense now understood, he'll likely approach it with the same confidence as he's shown in the past.

"So I mean I definitely just would say finding out who I am and really redefining myself each and every day and recommitting to being a better me and not really worrying about all of the external factors," Johnson said. "But just trying to be a better person and then with that I'll be a better player as well."

Jaylon Johnson at a Glance

The Vitals: Third year, 6-foot, 196 pounds

Career: 90 tackles, 71 solo, one interception, 24 pass defenses.

2021: 46 tackles, nine pass defenses, one interception.

The Number: 16. Johnson has missed 16 tackles according to Sportradar, for a relatively high 16% missed tackle rate, worse than both 2021 starting cornerbacks Kindle Vildor and Duke Shelley.

Bears 2022 FanNation Projection: 43 tackles, three interceptions, 11 pass breakups, one forced fumble.

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