Chicago Bears CB Jaylon Johnson is best in this area

Chicago Bears (Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports)
Chicago Bears (Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports) /

The first note to make on Chicago Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson is that he has historically been better as a zone cornerback than in man. It is true that he played 557 snaps in zone and 308 man snaps in his career, but still in 2021 the team was much more split compared to 2020 when Johnson almost exclusively played zone.

Either way, he was much more efficient in zone. He was targeted 85 while playing zone and 46 times when he was in man coverage. He allowed 6.7 yards per target in zone, while allowing 8.1 in man, though.

He also allowed 5.2 yards after the catch per reception when playing man coverage compared to 2.6 yards in zone. This does make sense, though as Johnson often kept things in front of him and closed downhill to limit YAC.

Still, he also has an 11% forced incompletion rate in zone compared to 8% in man, and he has eight pass breakups in zone, compared to just four in man, although his one interception came in man coverage. Lastly, he allowed six touchdowns when playing man coverage and three while playing zone.

Coming out of college Johnson was known for playing man and playing one side, and he had his most issues as a rookie when he had to leave the sideline and contest passes over the middle.

The good news is that one thing we have uncovered from Matt Eberflus is that he often plays more zone coverage than he does man coverage. Over the past three years, the Colts have been one of the most zone-heavy teams in the NFL, averaging around 75% of their snaps in zone coverage.

Last season, they ran man coverage just 23% of the time, and the year before that it was down to 16%. Last season Johnson ran man 32.7%, and the year before that he was at 26%.

Johnson allowed three touchdowns in man and was giving up 15.1 yards per target, marks well below typical expectations. When he was in zone, he was still as good as his rookie year, if not better.

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Overall, the shift in the scheme is going to benefit Jaylon Johnson. Look for some of his bad plays to be erased as he is asked to be in man coverage less, which is where he is not as comfortable.