Jaylon Johnson

Jaylon Johnson needs to fill leadership void in Bears secondary, and he knows it

The former Bears safety was a mentor to young defensive backs

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Now that the Bears gave Jaylon Johnson the big time deal he was looking for, the star cornerback will be expected to maintain the high level of play we saw in 2023. But with the great contract also comes great responsibility– especially considering the team’s decision to release safety Eddie Jackson.

“I’m the senior guy in the secondary now,” said Johnson. “Feeling close with (Jackson) and now having him gone it’s like ‘Damn.’”

For several seasons, Jackson was the elder statesman in the Bears secondary. Not only was the man charged with making sure every defensive back knew his assignment and key, he was the man who brought the room together. He would host Thursday Night Football watch parties and meet up with young players to watch film. Every Christmas, each DB could expect a lavish gift courtesy of Jackson. He was both a leader and a mentor.

Now, Johnson knows he’ll need to help fill that void. As an outside cornerback, Johnson won’t be the man making sure everyone’s in the right spot and keyed in properly from snap to snap. That job will likely fall to new free safety Kevin Byard or Jaquan Brisker. But he will have to step up as a more vocal leader, whether that’s in the locker room, organizing hangs outside Halas Hall, or helping younger players come along.

“At first it was like, ‘BoJack, tell us what you think.’ Now it will be all looking at me in general,” Johnson said. “‘What do you see? How do you see it?’ Stepping into that will be something different.”

Listening to Johnson, it doesn’t seem like he’s anxious about the added responsibility. In fact, it’s something Jackson helped him prepare for.

“It’s what we’ve been talking about since I came into the league,” Johnson said.

The Bears signed Johnson to a four-year contract for a reported $76 million.

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