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Jaylon Johnson named Bears Defensive Player of the Year

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In his fourth NFL season, cornerback Jaylon Johnson experienced a career year that helped fuel a resurgence by the Bears defense.

Johnson most notably recorded a career-high four interceptions, including his first pick-six, and 10 passes defensed which ranked second on the team. Along with Tremaine Edmunds and Tyrique Stevenson — who also had four picks apiece — Johnson led the defense to 22 interceptions, tying San Francisco for most in the NFL.

Due to his displaying his playmaking ability and ballhawking skills throughout the 2023 season, Johnson has been named the Bears' Defensive Player of the Year by ChicagoBears.com.

The Utah product earned multiple accolades for his performance in 2023, including second-team NFL All-Pro honors and an invitation to the Pro Bowl Games.

"Making All-Pro is just another example of God's work that he's done through me," Johnson said following his All-Pro selection. "Giving me the ability and strength to perform the way I did this year and to have the favor to receive this prestigious award is truly a blessing.

"Thank you to all of my teammates, coaches and staff for playing a huge role in my success and helping me grow to this point."

Johnson was also named Pro Football Focus' Best Coverage Defender in 2023 with a 90.8 PFF grade, a 33.3 passer rating allowed and 195 yards allowed.

The cornerback's best performance this season came in the Bears' 30-12 win over the Raiders on Oct. 22. Along with helping defend six-time Pro Bowl receiver Davante Adams, Johnson recorded two interceptions, returning one for a touchdown.

After the game, several of his teammates discussed Johnson's value to the locker room and the energy he brings to the field every day.

"He's just a guy who brings it every single day no matter if it's practice, game, walkthrough. He's on his details," linebacker T.J. Edwards said. "When you can rely on a guy like that, it's huge for you as backers. You understand that that side of the ball is taken care of. He's an unbelievable player and I'm just happy he got to make those plays today."

While Johnson's stats and accolades speak for themselves, he also brings a high football IQ and leadership skills to the locker room. Bears cornerbacks coach/passing game coordinator Jon Hoke lauded Johnson for his intelligence and ability to make plays even when he isn't being targeted.

"He knows the route combinations," Hoke told reporters on Dec. 21. "He understands what the quarterback can and can't do. Even in the Cleveland game, he really didn't get a lot of targets. And the way we play our guys is the way we play them. The ball ended up in the middle of the field, so he ended up to the single side. It was a play he almost intercepted. They probably weren't expecting him to be at that side. But that was the design of the play. So it went there.

"So he knows the mentality of watching what the coordinator calls, the route combinations. He watches massive amounts of tape and he does a really good job. At the end of the day, he's obviously gifted athletically, but he is really smart."

The four-year pro also became a mentor to some of the younger defensive backs like Stevenson — a Bears' second-round draft pick in 2023.

"That is a great veteran, just somebody who constantly went through what I went through, constantly patted me on the back and told me to keep going," Stevenson said on Jan. 8. "He never blinked and that's pretty much what gave me the confidence to go out there and start playing like one of the best corners in the league. I got one opposite me, why can't I be one?"

Since Johnson has been with the club since being drafted in 2020, he's been a stable presence for some of the new or younger players to look up to. Safety Jaquan Brisker, who was drafted in 2022, discussed the importance of veterans like Johnson and safety Eddie Jackson in helping set the Bears' culture.

"Definitely rooting for Jaylon always," Brisker said on Dec. 11. "The way he's been playing, his technique, even in the run game or even screens, he's been very physical on the perimeter and showing he can do it in the run or pass game. I'm always going to be rooting for players like that, especially players who have given Chicago all they got. Guys like him, guys like Bo, other guys like that I'm definitely rooting for and they're definitely great players.

"They show it day in and day out. Even when I came in here, they showed me what the Bears culture could be and should be. I'm just raising it up at a higher level with those guys."

Check out the best photos of the 2023 season—taken by Bears photographers—featuring players on the defensive side of the ball.

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