Jahns: Bears cornerbacks Jaylon Johnson, Kyler Gordon prove they are keepers


CHICAGO — Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson’s coverage against Eagles receiver A.J. Brown was good on third-and-6 from the Eagles’ 29 in the fourth quarter. The problem was that the pass to Brown from quarterback Jalen Hurts happened to be great.

It escalated into a 68-yard catch-and-run for Brown and an included abdominal injury for Johnson.

It was that type of day for Johnson and the thoroughly banged-up Bears.

“To a certain extent, there’s not too much I can do,” Johnson said after the Bears’ 25-20 loss to the Eagles at Soldier Field on Sunday. “I know I’m in position every play. Sometimes it’s just a good ball. And then sometimes I won them. I feel like the matchup was pretty even. It was a heck of a battle.”

It felt that way throughout Sunday, regardless of what the scoresheet says. Brown (nine catches, 181 yards) and DeVonta Smith (five catches, 126 yards) were undoubtedly problems. They are for every defense they face. But the Bears defense competed with the Eagles offense — the highest-scoring unit in the league — because of how Johnson and rookie cornerback Kyler Gordon played.

The Bears still lost another one-score game, but Johnson and Gordon looked like players you can win with in the future. They wanted the test that Brown, Smith and Hurts presented on Sunday.

They didn’t ace it, but they played well enough to pass it.

“I’m a fighter; I’m a competitor,” said Johnson, who made three pass breakups. “If you ask me, I still didn’t play up to my standards. I don’t give up big plays. And I gave up a few. But at the end day, it’s what happens. (Shoot), I’m going to be in his face. I’m going to challenge him. I’m going to be there every time.”

Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson breaks up a pass intended for Eagles receiver A.J. Brown. (Michael Reaves / Getty Images)

Johnson sounded like a player who fits into coach Matt Eberflus’ defense.

And Gordon looked like one, making an interception and recovering a fumble.

“He’s been progressing all year,” Johnson said. “It’s not surprising seeing him make those plays. I mean, he’s a ballhawk. He’s a playmaker.”

It hasn’t always looked like that way for Gordon, the 39th pick this year who missed the last two games with a concussion. So it helped to get a gimme. Hurts, the betting favorite for NFL MVP entering the game, gave it to him on the Eagles’ first possession. He rolled to his right and forced a pass on the move to Brown from the 50.

Gordon maneuvered into position for the easy interception.

“Really, I was just in my seam dropping,” Gordon said. “And I saw him roll out and I saw A.J. go vertical. I already saw them making the eye connection to go and do that. So I was just trying to drop and get depth underneath that. Then I saw him throw the ball in the air and I just had to go get it.”

Gordon later recovered a fumble by running back Miles Sanders in the third quarter at the Eagles’ 27 and returned it 12 yards. Defensive tackle Mike Pennel forced it by blowing up the screen play. Three plays later, running back David Montgomery scored on a 10-yard catch-and-run.

“We always talk about running to the ball,” Gordon said. “And I’m just trying to run to the ball and make any type of play I can. And that was my opportunity. So as soon as I saw it, I was hopping on it.”

The next step is scoring.

“You all saw me kind of slip and spin,” Gordon said. “Maybe (with) just a little different footing, I might be to the crib.”

Highlights like that have been scarce for the Bears’ secondary this season, but it would help to have a pass rush. If the Bears front office is going to take any sort of inspiration from the construction of the 13-1 Eagles, it’s that their investment in the trenches should never end — and that’s on both sides of the ball. Here’s a fun fact: 49ers pass rusher Nick Bosa has more QB hits this season than the entire Bears defense.



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The Bears blitzed to pressure Hurts. Gordon blitzed on Brown’s 68-yard catch, beating Johnson. When Hurts scored on a 22-yard draw, the Bears blitzed, but the wrong gaps were filled. Backup linebacker Joe Thomas sacked Hurts for a 6-yard loss in the third quarter.

“I know sometimes things don’t go our way,” Johnson said. “But we never stop fighting.”

That’s how Johnson described the performance of the Bears’ entire defense. Still, at this point of the season, it’s fair to wonder which players on the field by the end of the game will be featured prominently next year, especially after linebacker Jack Sanborn left with an ankle injury.

Johnson and Gordon will be, though.

If the Bears want to see positives and flashes of growth from their young players over the final four games, they got them from their cornerback duo on Sunday. Rookie safety Jaquan Brisker, who returned from a concussion, also belongs in that conversation. The secondary has building blocks, and now they have a good game against a great team to build on, albeit in the Bears’ seventh consecutive loss. Safety DeAndre Houston-Carson, who started for an injured Eddie Jackson, also made an interception.

“Definitely I feel like, not even just for myself, but the defense, going up against a team like that, we see like, I’m telling you, we see what we can do,” Gordon said. “Building off of that and going through the roof and taking this team far, we all know we can do that. It’s going to come, for sure.”

(Top photo of Kyler Gordon’s interception with Jaylon Johnson to his right: Mike Dinovo / USA Today)


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