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Johnson views third season as 'complete reset'


Through his first two NFL seasons, cornerback Jaylon Johnson has emerged as one of the Bears' top ascending young players. But with a new coaching staff taking over, the 2020 second-round pick feels like he has to prove himself all over again.

"That's my mindset now moving forward," Johnson said. "It's a complete reset. Everything I've done in the past with the other coaches, with the other staff, it really doesn't mean too much. I mean, the film is not going to lie to you. But at the end of the day, they want me to show them what I can do in person moving forward."

Johnson has demonstrated his playmaking ability from Day 1. As a rookie in 2020, he started the first 13 games before being sidelined with a shoulder injury, compiling 44 tackles and tying for ninth in the NFL with 15 pass breakups.

The Utah product made an immediate impact, preserving a season-opening win over the Lions by batting away a pass in the end zone as time expired. Later in the season, he deflected two passes that resulted in interceptions by teammates.

Last year Johnson started all 15 games he played and recorded a career-high 46 tackles, nine pass breakups and one interception. 

Only 23 years old, Johnson was recently described by first-year coach Matt Eberflus as "still a work in progress."

"He's got some things he's got to work on just like all the rest of those guys that are second- and third-year players," Eberflus said. "They've all got to work on stuff; just keep working and we'll see where he goes."

Before identifying specifically what Johnson needs to focus on, Eberflus intends to further evaluate the third-year pro in OTAs. 

"I want to see him in person," Eberflus said last week. "I've got to have time on task … I've got to see the guy cover. I've got to see how he takes his angles, how he plays on the ball. I've got to see all those things before we're going to start diving into the details of that, coaching him."

Eberflus is placing a huge emphasis on generating takeaways. The past four seasons, he coordinated a Colts defense that ranked in the top 10 in the NFL in takeaways each year he served in that role. Last season Indianapolis finished second with 33 takeaways (including 19 interceptions), while the Bears tied for 26th with 16 (including eight interceptions).

Johnson feels that the new defense that's being installed will give pass defenders a chance to get "a lot more eyes on the quarterback."

"It's definitely different from what we were used to running here in the past," Johnson said. "I feel like it gives us a lot more opportunities to see the quarterback, to make plays on the ball."

With offseason practices continuing through mid-June, Johnson hopes to keep showing coaches that he's a diligent worker who knows his playbook.

"I feel like it just comes down to work ethic … just kind of earning that respect as a hard worker and doing extra work," he said. "I mean, right now I feel like it's not too much about production. I feel like it's just really about knowing your assignment and playing hard."

Check out Tuesday's action from the practice fields as the Bears continue the first week of Organized Team Activities at Halas Hall.