Top 25 most important Bears in 2021: No. 10 Jaylon Johnson
Leading up to Bears training camp in late July, we're counting down the top 25 most important Bears for the 2021 season.
What makes one player more important than another? That's subjective, of course. But for our purposes it comes down to this: Are the Bears worse off if this player can't play? Does this player have untapped potential or past greatness to live up to? Is his story going to be one fans follow closely this season?
No. 10 Jaylon Johnson
NFL Experience: 2nd year
Looking back: The Bears selected cornerback Jaylon Johnson out of Utah just seven picks after they chose tight end Cole Kmet from Notre Dame in the 2020 draft. Johnson impressed everyone immediately. He was the seventh cornerback selected in the draft, but turned in one of the best rookie seasons of the bunch. Only a shoulder injury, which knocked him out for the final three games and the playoffs, hampered Johnson's rookie campaign.
Johnson wound up with a team-leading 15 passes defended. He totaled 42 tackles and started all 13 games prior to his injury. The shoulder injury was a bit concerning, given that Johnson had a history of shoulder injuries prior to his NFL career.
Looking forward: The only glaring hole for the Bears defense is the one left behind by departed All-Pro cornerback Kyle Fuller. With Fuller gone, there is going to be a lot more pressure on Johnson to hold down his side of the field. He proved he could do it in 2020, with few mistakes over the course of the season. Now he will have to do it with some uncertainty at the other cornerback spot, where free agent signing Desmond Trufant seems likely to start.
Of paramount importance will be staying on the field. If Johnson goes down with another injury, that cornerback room starts to look thin quickly. The Bears' 10 interceptions on defense tied the team for 23rd in the NFL. That number simply wasn't good enough, especially given the talent in that secondary. Johnson is still looking for his first NFL interception. The Bears need somebody in the secondary to create takeaways. Doing so would elevate Johnson's game to the next level.