Chicago Bears film review: 5 ups and downs with Jaylon Johnson

Chicago Bears - Credit: Detroit Free Press
Chicago Bears - Credit: Detroit Free Press /

Jaylon Johnson had a roller coaster game for the Chicago Bears

Before the game started, we had highlighted that despite seeing the likes of Mike Evans, and others, that the duo of Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore may be the toughest test for the Chicago Bears rookie Jaylon Johnson.

The Carolina Panthers scheme, quarterback, and receivers set up for a stylistic difference that Johnson had not seen in previous weeks. Johnson has been strong when using the sideline for his help, but as he has been asked to move over the middle of the field, he has felt less comfortable.

We knew the Panthers would take him out of his comfort zone, so the question is how did he respond? Overall, it was a roller coaster of a game.

One Up

The game started with a positive. As noted, we know that Johnson feels comfortable when he knows where the sideline is. He also is very comfortable crashing on the football and playing physical when breaking on the ball. This has been a valued skillset going back to Utah, and as he sees the curl he breaks immediately. Johnson bats the ball up and leads to an interception.

One Down

On the very next drive, he was tested with a quick slant. We knew that this was going to be something that came more often than weeks past. He played off coverage and gave up the easy completion. This is fine, however, the yards after the catch are not. D.J. Moore was able to rip off 22 yards on this play. Once again, Johnson shows he is uncomfortable when turning and going over the middle.

Two Up

Next Johnson gives us some signs of growth. The whip route is not one he has seen often. Robby Anderson runs it well. However, you can see that Johnson stays in-phase and changes direction well. The play resulted in a sack as Bridgewater looked the other way.

This play can show that it is not the change of direction that is an issue. However, he did have the sideline on this play and was more comfortable being exposed to the inside.

Two Down

There were two penalties on Johnson that impacted the game in big ways. We are not even going to show the pass interference, because that was arguably a positive play. That was nearly textbook defense. However, illegal contact down the field was a bit much.

It is not something where you want to get too mad, though. Yes, he made the penalty and the Panthers got a first down. However, his physicality, and in particular when targeted down the field is his best trait. You do not want to take too much away.

Three Up

The Panthers wanted to get Johnson to bite to the inside and beat him to the outside. However, Johnson was having none of that. He did a great job of stepping inside to force the route outside but also playing the second move.

Again, when he has that sideline he feels like that can do a lot. He is comfortable being physical and he read this route like a book.

Three Down

This is a confusing play for Johnson. The rest of the defense picks up their man and they all follow them across the field. Just eyeing everyone else you have to assume the Bears are in man. However, Johnson drifts back like he is in a zone before following his man well after the completion.

It has to be noted again that the Bears play zone often, and in the particular matchups he has faced, he has not been asked to follow receivers across the entire field. Johnson seemed to be a bit confused that he even would be asked to run across the field, which he hardly did at Utah either.

Four Up

This was not his prettiest play but may have been just as impactful as tipping the ball for the INT. Johnson is asked to follow his man across the field once again. This time it is third and goal. Johnson fights through traffic and sticks with his man al the way across the end zone.

Johnson winds up on the ground, and D.J. Moore does have a chance to make an acrobatic. However, forcing acrobatic catches when this is not an area of strength for Johnson is good enough.

The fact of the matter is that while the pick eventually led to seven for Chicago, this play legitimately took four points of the board, and turned a touchdown into a field goal.

Four Down

D.J. Moore is a tough ask. He can run across the entire field with speed and can get down the sideline as well. On this play, Johnson has strong coverage. However, Moore plays the ball and makes a tough, physical catch. Sometimes there is not much you can do. An area of strength for Johnson was exposed.

Five Up

This play was as good as any on Sunday. As we have noted, all day Johnson has struggled with the slants, crossers, or anything away from the sideline. In the fourth quarter, he is playing off coverage and sees a slant. Johnson breaks and shows us that physicality at the catch point.

Five Down

You hate to end with a down, but Johnson started with an up, so that is the order we found ourselves in. Beyond that, we can debate whether this is down or not.

He is in zone in this play. That means that is taking the flat, and Tashaun Gipson has the top. Robby Anderson gets over Johnson. The route in the slot holds Gipson, and Bridgewater hits the hole between the two.

It can be argued that Johnson should have got more depth on this play. If the slot man breaks to the sideline, Johnson could have been deeper and still picked him up. However, at the bottom of the screen, you can see the running back appear at the last second. This likely held Johnson a step closer to the line of scrimmage and gave Bridgewater enough space to hit the spot.

This play is a good scheme, good route, good throw, but Johnson gets dinged for yards allowed.

Overall Jaylon Johnson had enough ups that you can forgive the downs.  As noted, he is not comfortable with all of the intricacies of the NFL but has clearly defined strengths. He has built on some of his weaknesses, and this was his best game defending the middle of the field despite the most yards allowed as well.

Next. Roquan Smith has career game. dark

This was always going to be a big test for a player like Johnson, so to see growth is more important than seeing the struggles.