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Quick Hits: Pagano confident in rookie Johnson


This summer, Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said that without a preseason, all of this year's rookies would have to endure a "baptism by fire."

That baptism is coming for cornerback Jaylon Johnson on Sunday. Despite spending most of training camp practicing in a limited capacity, Johnson is expected to make his first career start against the Detroit Lions. Pagano isn't nervous about how the second-round draft pick will fare.

"He's a confident kid," said Pagano. "I think this is not too big for him. I think it will take a little bit, maybe, just to adapt to the speed of the game and how things are moving and the tempo."

Johnson only had a handful of practices to prove his readiness, but it was enough to convince Pagano.

"Ever since he's been cleared for limited and then full participation," said Pagano, "he's done a really good job. He's a quick study. He gets it. He's an athletic guy. When he's around the ball, he makes plays, he makes interceptions, he's got exceptional ball skills, and it's not too big for him."

Johnson will face a dangerous passing attack that features receivers Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr., with Matthew Stafford under center.

"He's going to go against one of the top quarterbacks in the league in Matthew," said Pagano. "He's going to have his hands full, but he's up for the challenge."

Sneaky good: With linebacker Robert Quinn held out of the last two practices with an ankle injury, Barkevious Mingo, the Bears' other free-agent acquisition at linebacker, may see an increased role Sunday. The former first-round pick has now played for six teams in six years, but he has a fan in Pagano.

"He's got some dominant traits," said Pagano, "and obviously he was drafted where he was because of those traits. He's kind of sneaky good. With his length and athleticism, his ability to bend, he's got a nice little toolbox of pass-rush deals, and he's smart."

Mingo played for Pagano and outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino when they served as the head coach and defensive coordinator of the Indianapolis Colts, respectively, in 2017. That familiarity has allowed Mingo to adapt quickly.

"Obviously, he was in our system," said Pagano, "so that was simple for him. He can rush from a lot of different places, but he's got a nice skillset. And again, his length and athleticism, his bend, his burst, he's got, again, enough tools there to affect the quarterback and hopefully get to him."

Good Feelings: Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor weighed in on the Bears quarterback competition's conclusion and feels good about where things ended up. Echoing the statements of coach Matt Nagy, he gave Mitchell Trubisky credit for winning the job outright.

"I'm proud of Mitch for how he approached the whole thing from his attitude," said Lazor, "the way he showed up on the field. Obviously, you do everything you can in a situation like this."

Lazor also praised Nick Foles, who he coached to a Pro Bowl in 2013 when Lazor was serving as the quarterbacks coach for the Philadelphia Eagles.

"I think it was a fun competition," said Lazor, "because you have guys who are professionals, who are talented athletes, who are really good at what they do. I'm proud of Nick for playing the way he played in camp. I know he will be prepared when it's his turn."

Keep an eye out: Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor is preparing the Bears' coverage units to face the dangerous Jamal Agnew on punt and kickoff returns in Detroit.

"He can change a game in a heartbeat," said Tabor. "I mean, he's going into his fourth year. He has four touchdowns, three punt returns, one kick return. He had two touchdowns last season. There's a lot to know about him. He's a really good football player."

Agnew burst on the scene in 2017 as a fifth-round pick out of FCS school San Diego. His ability to break big plays has led the Lions to switch him from cornerback to receiver. However Agnew performs on Sunday, he won't catch Tabor by surprise.

"He's a difference-maker," said Tabor, "and he has our attention."

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