Bears CB Jaylon Johnson relishes matchup vs. A.J. Brown

The Bears don’t always have Johnson shadow the opponent’s best receiver, but Johnson is hoping they do Sunday against the Eagles. He always wants the No. 1 guy. “I feel like I’m the best. And they feel like they’re the best,” Johnson said. “So why not go at it.”

SHARE Bears CB Jaylon Johnson relishes matchup vs. A.J. Brown
Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson (33) breaks up a pass for Commanders wide receiver Terry McLaurin (17) in the Bears’ 12-7 loss on Oct. 13 at Soldier Field.

Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson (33) breaks up a pass for Commanders wide receiver Terry McLaurin (17) in the Bears’ 12-7 loss on Oct. 13 at Soldier Field.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson has many qualities, but being versatile and coachable are two of defensive coordinator Alan Williams’ favorites. 

“He’s been fantastic about going in -different places and doing different things,” Williams said. “Sometimes he’s been on the left side. Sometimes he’s been on the right side. Sometimes he’s been on the boundary. Sometimes he’s gone with a specific -receiver. He is great about doing that. Every corner in the NFL will not do that.” 

That’s all well and good, but this week Johnson has a very specific idea of what he wants to do — cover Eagles receiver A.J. Brown. 

“A hundred percent. No question,” Johnson said immediately when asked if he wants that assignment Sunday when the Bears play the NFC-leading Eagles at -Soldier Field. 

Asked if he was getting the assignment he wants, Johnson said, “We’re going to see. I hope we do.” 

Brown, the former Titans Pro Bowl -receiver who was acquired in a trade in the offseason, has 65 receptions for 1,020 yards and 10 touchdowns. His average of 15.7 yards per catch leads all NFL receivers with 40 or more receptions. 

The Bears aren’t going to reveal their defensive strategy, and the Eagles have another threat who could necessitate Johnson’s attention in DeVonta Smith (66-775, five touchdowns). But Brown is the matchup Johnson wants. And he makes no doubt why.

“I feel like I’m the best. And they feel like they’re the best. So why not go at it,” Johnson said. “I want to prove myself as one of the best corners in the league. And you’ve got to go against the best to do it. That’s my goal every week.” 

The 6-1, 226-pound Brown has three 100-yard games — against the Lions (10-155), Steelers (6-156, three touchdowns) and Titans (8-119, two TDs).

“I’m sure they’ll end up against each other at some point,” Bears secondary coach James Rowe said. “Jaylon Johnson is the type of guy who loves to take on a challenge. He’s going to have one this week and I’m excited to see him step up.” 

Whenever they match up, Johnson knows what he’s up against. 

“A big guy who’s going to make good, contested catches,” he said. “Definitely physical at the top of routes. He’s going to try to use his size, and he’s really good after the catch, extending plays. He’s a playmaker and a big guy.” 

The 6-foot, 196-pound Johnson is physical as well, but it will take more than might to win this battle, or even contain Brown. 

“Obviously Jaylon has some physical gifts as well as A.J. Brown,” Rowe said, “and Jaylon’s super smart. He’s probably one of the smartest people in our building, and that helps you be a better football player.” 

Johnson does not hide his desire to shadow premier receivers, but he doesn’t have to lobby the coaches. They know. 

“That’s just understood,” Rowe said. “He’s a guy that wants the challenge. He’s not scared of it. I know he probably wants to travel [with the best receiver] every week and we try to put him in the best situation for the defense. I’m happy he’s enough of a team player to do whatever needs to be done to help us win the game.”

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