Tashaun Gipson has played a long time in the NFL. During that span, he’s gotten to play with a lot of great players. Especially in the secondary. He has seen some of the best in the league ply their craft. That is why he felt comfortable sitting before the Chicago Bears media back in early September and made a simple declaration. Jaylon Johnson was going to be a star in this league.
It was said with a completely straight face. He was dead serious. Everything he’d seen out of the young cornerback as a rookie up through training camp and the preseason this year said one thing. The kid is not just talented but has the obsessive work ethic that only the best tend to have. Gipson smiled and said Johnson was going to end up a top 5 cornerback before 2021 was even over. He was talking about a Jalen Ramsey-type jump.
People smiled and laughed it off.
This was just a guy talking up a teammate. Johnson was probably going to improve and be a solid cornerback. Top 5 though? That was a stretch. Nobody is laughing now. Five games into this season, quarterbacks have thrown at Johnson 23 times. They’ve completed just nine of those passes with six pass breakups and an interception. Good for a whopping 41.4 passer rating. When the media finally saw Gipson again this week, he had a grin on his face at the first mention of Johnson.
Everything he said is indeed coming to fruition. Johnson has emerged as arguably the best player on a defense filled with big names. Remember Khalil Mack has six sacks already this season. Roquan Smith is on pace for 170 tackles. So to say Johnson is outperforming those guys is a perfect encapsulation of how good he’s been.
Jaylon Johnson will help carry Bears defense into the future
Many people had serious fears going into 2021. Was this going to be the year the defense finally fell apart? After all, age was catching up to them. Mack, Robert Quinn, Danny Trevathan, and Akiem Hicks were all into their 30s. Fans remember vividly what happened the last time a great defense got old. It completely disintegrated into one of the worst in the league in 2013 and 2014.
Things were different back then though. How so? The Bears didn’t have any young talent in the pipeline ready to step up and fill the voids. Between 2007 and 2012, the team failed to find a single long-term starter. Such is not the case this time around. GM Ryan Pace deserves a lot of credit for working to ensure the future of this defense. Smith is already a star at inside linebacker. Bilal Nichols has become a solid starter on the defensive line. Now Jaylon Johnson has emerged.
The future is looking bright.
A top 5 inside linebacker and now a potential top 5 cornerback. That should ensure the Bears defense remains competitive for years to come. It’s also another reason why some people are reluctant to see Pace fired. For all his mistakes, the guy understands how to build a defense. Either way, it was nice to see Gipson enjoy his moment reminding everybody they never should’ve doubted him.