The Chicago Bears defense keeps getting talked about as if it’s on its last legs. That there is no future for this group beyond 2020 or 2021 at the absolute latest. The reality is this isn’t true. Unlike back in 2012 when it was painfully obvious the entire core of a great defense was about to go off a cliff, this incarnation is different. Why? Namely because they have a number of young bucks fully capable of becoming core pieces in the near future. None more so than cornerback Jaylon Johnson.

Coming out of Utah, draft experts felt he had all the trappings of a future starter. If not for shoulder injuries that hampered his college run, he probably would’ve been a 1st round pick. Instead, the Bears scooped him up with the 50th overall selection. Time has shown they may have gotten one of the steals of the entire 2020 class.

Johnson has thrived despite plenty of factors going against him.

No rookie minicamps. No OTAs and no preseason. He even started training camp with limited reps because of ongoing recovery from his shoulder problems. Yet that didn’t stop him from becoming the starter opposite Kyle Fuller opening day. A position he has held in every game since, playing some really impressive football. ESPN analyst Matt Bowen went so far as to call him the best rookie corner in the league.

“However, I look at the ball production here with Johnson, who is tied for the league lead with 14 passes broken up this year. Remember, you have to be in a position to finish on the ball, and that’s where we see the physical coverage traits and active hands of the rookie.

Plus, he fits in a Chicago defensive scheme that leans on split-safety looks. While Johnson can still be a little grabby in coverage and get stuck with his eyes in the backfield at times, I see the arrow pointing up here on a player who will continue to show growth with more pro game reps.”

The crazy thing is Johnson is just 21-years old. He’s barely an adult. His best games are still ahead of him. Along with the 23-year old Roquan Smith, the future of the Bears defense isn’t as bleak as some people make it out to be. If they can continue to draft well, this unit should remain respectable for years to come.

Jaylon Johnson still has some things to work on

Most notably his lack of true impact plays. The pass deflections are great. As is the consistently solid coverage. However, in a world ruled by offenses, the defense has to be better about creating turnovers. Johnson has yet to grab his first career interception 12 games into the season. By comparison, Kyle Fuller had four and Charles Tillman had four in their rookie years respectfully.

So if Johnson wants to consider himself in their league as great Bears cornerbacks, he better get cracking. He’s wearing #33 after all. That comes with a certain amount of expectations. Johnson, to his credit, doesn’t seem phased by it. He loves a challenge and is a total football junkie. His film-watching has become somewhat notorious.

It’ll be fun watching how he develops.

Odds are it will be under a new coaching staff in 2021. Matt Nagy is likely to get fired by the end of this year. So Jaylon Johnson will have his career in the hands of a new defensive coordinator by the end of January. Hopefully, the Bears don’t mess it up because they have a potential superstar in the making if he can put it all together.