Rookie cornerback Jaylon Johnson is widely considered to be one of the better picks the Chicago Bears made in the 2020 NFL Draft — if not the best. Chicago took Johnson with the 50th overall selection in the second round, and the young corner will presumably be fighting for a starting spot opposite All-Pro Kyle Fuller.
Utah Utes head coach Paul Whittingham knows Johnson better than most. Whittingham spent the last three years coaching him at Utah, and he told Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times that he sees a very bright future in the NFL for his former player. He also compared Johnson to someone else he once coached — someone who was one of the better defensive backs the league has seen over the last 15 years.
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Whittingham: Bears’ Rookie Jaylon Johnson ‘Very Similar’ to Eric Weddle
Whittingham served as the Utes’ defensive coordinator in the mid 2000s, when former Baltimore Ravens and San Diego Chargers defensive back Eric Weddle played for them from 2003-2006. Whittingham got to know Weddle quite well in that time, and he sees a lot of Weddle in Jaylon Johnson.
“Eric Weddle was in our program, and he was all-business, just had a great focus and determination about him. There are a lot of personality traits that Jaylon and Eric share … They’re very, very similar in how they approach things,” Whittingham said. “Those NFL guys have a certain look to them, a certain way they carry themselves,” the coach continued. “He had it. It was very apparent to us that we had a great one when we signed him.”
Jaylon Johnson is Already Showing Pro-Level Confidence
Weddle wound up playing 13 seasons in the NFL, starting 186 games in that span. He snagged 29 interceptions, had 38 tackles for loss, and had 1,179 total tackles in that time. He also made six Pro Bowls, and was a two-time All-Pro. If Johnson’s career mirrors his at all, the Bears will have gotten a steal in the second round.
And if Whittingham’s comments are any indication, the young corner will not disappoint in Chicago. “He lived up to every expectation,” Whittingham said of Johnson. “He came into our program, had a tremendous work ethic, was intense, focused. Obviously, the physical talent was there. He was a great student.”
For his part, Johnson seems ready for the numerous challenges he’ll face upon entering the league. “Honestly, I’m a dog. I’m a real strong competitor,” Johnson said after he was drafted by the Bears. “Everything I did at Utah, I had to be that No. 1 corner and going out every week and shutting down No. 1 wide receivers. I’m used to getting after it. I’m used to challenging guys. I never shy down from competition. In big games, there was never a time that I didn’t show up and make plays.”
He’ll have a chance to win the starting corner job on a defense stacked with All-Pros, so Johnson will have to earn it — and if he does, don’t be surprised if he’s one of the most talked-about rookies by end of the season.