Why Chicago Bears CB Jaylon Johnson may not follow Deebo Samuel

Chicago Bears (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
Chicago Bears (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Bears have done an excellent job at identifying when Jaylon Johnson should and should not follow certain wide receivers. Johnson knows he has to take on the top man when the team has faced Odell Beckham, Davante Adams, and Mike Evans. However, teams such as the Raiders with multiple threats saw Johnson stick to his side.

With that in mind, many would assume that Johnson will shadow Deebo Samuel on Sunday. Samuel leads the team in targets with 63, and the next closest is George Kittle, who will not play Sunday, with 28. He has 648 yards; the rest of the entire team has 812 yards. If they can shut down Samuel, the 49ers have no other offense to look to.

The issue is that Samuel is not your prototypical receiver. He is almost a gadget player, and that is why the 49ers have successfully gotten the ball in his hands, despite defensive attention locking him.

According to PFF, Samuel has spent 27% of his snaps either in the slot, in-line, or backfield. We know that Johnson struggled against Davante Adams and Mike Evans at times, but typically he is dominant when playing down the field with the help of the sidelines.

From his rookie year to losing against Adams bad in the slot this year, Johnson has struggled when he does not have the sideline to help him.

Beyond that, drags and crossers are always the most significant issues for Johnson, which makes sense considering his strength. The route chart for Samuel last week shows you exactly how they use him.

You can see he is running routes from the backfield, but almost everything he runs screams over the middle of the field where Jaylon Johnson is at his worst.

Yes, it is fair to assume that Samuel will spend ~40% of his snaps on the outside, and in those cases, Johnson should see him.

However, the best way to defend the 49ers and their crossing routes that create picks is to play zone. This often means linebackers and safeties are matched up on Samuel, but they are much more equipped to stop him from getting over the middle than Johnson.

The Bears have looked to use three safeties in 2021 far more than any other year, another wrinkle under Sean Desai. If Tashaun Gipson can back into the mix, having DeAndre Houston-Carson, someone playing great ball right now, maybe a better match for Samuel. DHC will often line up in the slot, but in playing zone, he may see Samuel crossing into his area more often than not.

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Samuel has made big plays down the sideline and even burnt Jeff Okudah, who was drafted over Johnson. Still, Johnson has been better in the NFL in this area, and if the team trusts Johnson to shut down Samuel, or anyone on the outside rolling downfield, it makes it easier to shift the safeties to the middle of the field where the action is. Then, on the outside, Johnson can make sure that no explosive plays come.

Essentially, by Johnson not following Samuel and putting the locks on any other wideout, it allows the Bears to bracket Samuel and clamp him in the middle of the field.

It sounds counterproductive, but the Bears should consider not following Deebo Samuel with Jaylon Johnson.