Half the battle in the NFL is getting an opportunity. For Chicago's Jaylon Johnson, opportunity knocks as he steps into his second season in the NFL. Earlier this offseason, the Bears released veteran Kyle Fuller, which now paves the way for the 2020 second-round pick in Johnson to become the club's No. 1 corner and one of the team's de facto leaders in the secondary. While that role is ripe for the picking for Johnson, the young corner needs to be healthy. His rookie season was cut to just 13 games as he missed Chicago's final four contests (including their playoff loss to the Saints) due to a shoulder injury. Fortunately for Johnson, that bump in his rookie season seems to be a thing of the past as he gears up for Year 2.
"I'm 100 percent healthy," Johnson said of his shoulder, via the official team website. "There was no structural damage. There wasn't anything major like that. I'm not going to go into the exact details of what exactly happened, but it was just about being able to get to 100 percent. I've been rehabbing, staying on top of my treatment and therapy on my shoulder. I'm just getting back healthy and trying to stay healthy."
When Johnson was on the field, he was pretty impressive. He came out of the gate totaling 15 pass breakups over his first year in the league to go along with 44 tackles in his 13 games (all starts). When targeted, he allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete just 56.4% of their passes while surrendering a 107.5 passer rating. Not too shabby for a rookie without the luxury of offseason workouts or a preseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Now, Johnson is looking to build off that promising rookie season to take a leap in his development.
"Just from last year, the game naturally slows down, getting that year under your belt," he said. "For me, just my body is more at ease. My mind is more at ease, being able to see things, being able to have better eyes and just a better understanding of what the offense is trying to do and just how the defense works as well. It's just easier mentally, which allows my body to be able to play a little faster."
The Bears did bring in veteran Desmond Trufant to deepen their cornerback room, but all eyes will be on Johnson as Chicago hopes he'll be able to take the leap necessary for him to be considered their top option at the position for the foreseeable future.