Don't Sleep on Jaylon Johnson

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Don’t Sleep on Jaylon Johnson

Chicago Bears

NFL training camps open next month. And with that, we’ll start seeing more posts like this from Pro Football Focus, which tries to identify second-year breakout candidates. If you’re a football fan, you’ll want to peruse this collection of names for future reference. And if you’re a fantasy football player, a handful of the offensive standouts are probably the types of guys you’d want on your squad.

But if you’re a Bears fan, you might be miffed that cornerback Jaylon Johnson receives just an honorable mention. Especially when you see Cameron Dantzler of the rival Vikings popping up as a breakout candidate in the same piece. Nevertheless, this should serve as a reminder to not sleep on Johnson this upcoming season.

Johnson finished the season with a 54.9 overall grade from PFF. Admittedly, that’s not great. In fact, it ranks 84th among the 121 qualifiers for the site’s leaderboards. But Johnson did well enough in so many other areas to make me think he could be better than that grade.

For instance, Johnson checked in among the top-5 in the NextGenStats Ball Hawk Rate. Grading well in a metric that calculates the percentage of targets where the nearest defender makes a play on the ball that results in an incompletion or pass breakup seems pretty important. And that Johnson did that at a 21.1 percent clip is impressive. Imagine if he could turn some of those into interceptions. Johnson didn’t have any picks last year, which is a bummer. You want your cornerback to show ball skills and come up with INTs. But breaking up 15 passes in 13 games shows he was putting in work. He also came through with 14 forced incompletions, per PFF. That was the most among rookies. All around impressive stuff when you sit down and think about it.

Don’t let the grade fool you. PFF has been hot for Johnson for some time. Johnson was on PFF’s All-Rookie Team after the first quarter of the season, earning those honors by playing more coverage snaps than any corner in the league and allowing just three first downs. When the site came back around to re-up at the midway point, Johnson made PFF’s All-Rookie Team at the halfway mark. At that point of the year, Johnson was allowing just a 50 percent completion rate when targeted and came away with 10 pass breakups. The penalties were a red flag and a cause for concern. However, to play well through that spoke volumes about his total body of work.

Again, the overall grade leaves plenty to be desired from the rising second-year player. But you don’t have to squint to see the makings of a solid corner. And more than that, someone on the cusp of a breakout.

Author: Luis Medina

Luis Medina is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at@lcm1986.