The real Jaylon Johnson plans to stand up vs. Falcons

Johnson valiantly played through an oblique injury against the Lions and wasn’t quite himself. “I know that could’ve been a game where I allowed no catches. And [the Lions] know they got away with some uncharacteristic things out of me.”

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Chicago Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson tackles Detroit Lions wide receiver Kalif Raymond during the fourth quarter at Soldier Field on Sunday. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson (33) tackles Lions receiver Kalif Raymond in the fourth quarter of the Bears’ 31-30 loss Sunday at Soldier Field.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Since he became a starter in Week 1 of his rookie season in 2020, Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson has fast-tracked to star status in the Bears’ secondary. 

He’s the cover corner who should shadow Davante Adams and Justin Jefferson. He’s the shut-down corner whom opposing quarterbacks avoid testing.

So Johnson at 75% or 80% or whatever he was against the Lions last week is still better than anything else the Bears have. It’s just not Jaylon Johnson. 

That was painfully evident in the 31-30 loss to the Lions when Johnson — playing through an oblique injury — was a culprit on the Lions’ seven-play, 91-yard touchdown drive that won it. In a span of four plays, Kalif Raymond beat Johnson for a 20-yard gain, and Tom Kennedy burned him for a 44-yard gain to the Bears’ 14-yard line on third-and-eight.

Johnson isn’t going to be perfect, but he is rarely the victim in crunch time.

And while Johnson didn’t regret playing, he acknowledged that the injury limited him.

“Just my explosiveness, my quick-twitch, kind of really being able to move. You need your core for that,” he said. “I feel like when you’re pressing and making certain breaks and movements, it’s taking a lot out of me and not just being able to move at my full potential. That’s about it.” 

The Lions took advantage of a rare weakness in his game, with receivers he usually handles better. 

A little frustrating? 

“Oh, very frustrating,” Johnson said. “I know that could’ve been a game that I allowed no catches,” Johnson said. “[And] they know that, as well. They know that they got away with some uncharacteristic things out of me. But I feel like I showed a lot of toughness still playing through it, still able to make some plays, tackles, set edges and play through the pain. There’s some things I would like to have back, but it is what it is.” 

While an oblique injury can linger, Johnson said he feels better this week. 

“Definitely a little better,” he said. “A week in, having some time off to let my body rest a little bit, that definitely did me good.” 

Defensive coordinator Alan Williams could not tell if the injury hampered Johnson. But …

“I do know this,” Williams said, “when Jaylon hasn’t performed up to his standards, I know you can almost bet the next week is going to be better. He’s prideful. He’s smart. He’s tough. He’s mentally stable. So I guarantee you this week he’ll be even better than last week.”

Johnson also had some bad luck, most notably a disputed hands-to-the-face penalty that nullified Jack Sanborn’s interception in the fourth quarter. It looked to be a clean play, with receiver Trinity Benson falling down with an injury, perhaps helping sell the penalty.

Asked what the coaching point was, Johnson said there was none. On the contrary, “It was more of a teach tape than anything,” Johnson said. “You could teach others to do what I did. I felt it was a clean play. I didn’t mean to hurt him. I just wanted to be aggressive. I thought my hand placement was good. But things like that happen all the time.”

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