Bears rookie Roschon Johnson puts best foot forward

The fourth-round draft pick had seven carries for 32 yards and added an 11-yard gain on a reception on the Bears’ 17-play, 92-yard touchdown drive against the Colts on Saturday night.

SHARE Bears rookie Roschon Johnson puts best foot forward
Bears running back Roschon Johnson is pursued by Indianapolis Colts cornerback Jaylon Jones on Saturday.

Bears running back Roschon Johnson is pursued by Indianapolis Colts cornerback Jaylon Jones on Saturday.

Darron Cummings/AP

INDIANAPOLIS — The joint practices with the Colts on Wednesday and Thursday meant everything to Bears coach Matt Eberflus.

“It’s like playing two preseason games,” he said. “If they let me do it again, I’d do it again next week.”

But to running back Roschon Johnson, the game is when the 6-2, 222-pound rookie from Texas can really show what he can do. Johnson thrives on physicality, and OTAs, minicamp and even training-camp practices don’t quite give him a chance to play to his strength.

Johnson got that opportunity Saturday night in the Bears’ 24-17 preseason loss to the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium and showed glimpses of his potential to be a factor in the regular season.

He entered the game on the Bears’ third possession and, along with rookie quarterback Tyson Bagent, gave the team a lift after two punts on the opening possessions with PJ Walker at quarterback.

Johnson had seven carries for 32 yards (4.6 average) and also had an 11-yard reception as the Bears drove 92 yards on 17 plays. Bagent’s two-yard TD run tied the game at 7 with 1:26 left in the first half.

“Play by play, it’s coming along,” Johnson said. “I don’t think I’m behind. But at the same time, I’ve got a lot to prove. It’s trending in the right direction. Positive signs. I’ve still got to take it a day at a time and keep chipping away.”

On the drive, Johnson had rushes of 14 and 10 yards on back-to-back carries — the latter carry behind fullback Robert Burns. Blocks by center Doug Kramer and guard Alex Leatherwood sprung him for the 11-yard gain to the Colts’ 19-yard line on a screen pass from Bagent.

With virtually every starter not playing, the second preseason game was a showcase for rookies, including draft picks who figure to be contributors in the regular season — Johnson, defensive tackles Gervon Dexter and Zacch Pickens, cornerbacks Tyrique Stevenson and Terell Smith and linebacker Noah Sewell.

Stevenson had an eventful night. He missed a golden opportunity for an interception when Gardner Minshew’s pass went between his hands in the end zone for a four-yard touchdown to wide receiver Juwann Winfree. Stevenson also missed a pick against the Titans, though he still had a pass breakup on that play.

“Back to the drawing board,” Stevenson said. “Two weeks in a row. Two dropped interceptions. It’s unacceptable. So back to the JUGS [machine] after practice every day.”

Stevenson showed his trademark aggressiveness earlier in the drive but went over the line and drew a personal-foul penalty for a late hit when he slammed Colts running back Kenyan Drake to the ground out of bounds after a short pass.

Fortunately for Stevenson, Drake responded by shoving him after the play, drawing his own personal-foul penalty — an offsetting infraction. But he still heard about it from Eberflus on the sideline before getting back in the game.

“Just be a little bit smarter [was the message],” Stevenson said. “I could have been better with my head across the ball, so I could see where I was on the field. Once I looked up and he was heading to the ground, I realized we were in the white. So just gotta be a better rookie and [make] smarter plays and not cause the team any harmful penalties.”

The game was less eventful for the other rookies, though Pickens made an impact in the first half, especially against the run. He stopped running back Evan Hull on a one-yard gain, then combined with linebacker Jack Sanborn for a tackle for loss on the next play, but a neutral-zone infraction on defensive end Rasheem Green nullified the play.

“My run-stopping, that’s one thing we practiced a lot, and I keyed on the whole week, and [it] showed,” Pickens said. “I feel 10 times better. I was a little nervous [last week] because that was my first game. I felt good today. The game’s starting to slow down for me.”

The Latest
Unfortunately, the printing plant issues we’ve been facing this week continue. We’ve had to print Wednesday’s and Thursday’s papers at multiple facilities across the region, which affects how and when papers are delivered — with a deadline Wednesday of 6 p.m. — more than four hours earlier than usual. We’re grateful for your understanding.
News from the Sun-Times and other media outlets that still print physical pages could only be consumed electronically Tuesday because of weather-related production issues. Those who just get their news online may not have noticed, but print subscribers did.
President experiencing ‘mild symptoms’ and is taking Paxlovid, White House says
After three piping plover chicks died in the span of five days, the Sun-Times spoke with wildlife experts to understand the risks the young creatures face.
Chicago chefs Will Carter and Alvin Green faced off Wednesday in the Cook County Sheriff’s Garden Chef Challenge. Each was given an hour to create a dish using ingredients grown at the farm.