Bears’ Jaylon Johnson relishes challenge vs. Davante Adams

The Bears caught a break when Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson missed Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury. But cornerback Jaylon Johnson’s disappointment was real. He loves those marquee matchups and the opportunity to prove himself against the league’s best receivers. 

Johnson figures to get that chance Sunday with another matchup he loves — Raiders receiver Davante Adams, the former Packers star who is still among the best in the NFL. 

“I’ve been saying this for three years now,” said Johnson, who has been with the Bears since 2020. “[The Bears] know. You guys know. Davante knows those are the matchups I want. Nothing has changed. I got put into that my second year in the league, so it’s definitely not changing in my fourth year. I want any and every big matchup I can get.” 

Adams, a second-round draft pick by the Packers in 2014, was 14-2 against the Bears with the Packers, with 81 receptions for 1,024 yards (12.6 yards per catch) and 10 touchdowns. But he’s only faced Johnson three times in 2020 at Lambeau Field (six catches, 61 yards, one touchdown in a 41-25 rout); in 2021 at Soldier Field (4-89, no touchdowns in a 24-14 victory); and in 2021 at Lambeau (10-121, two touchdowns in a 45-30 victory).

Adams’ production in those matchups don’t really tell the story, because the Bears haven’t used Johnson exclusively on Adams. Only one of the three touchdowns, in fact, came against Johnson — a four-yarder that clinched the Packers’ victory at Lambeau in 2021. 

That’s always the underlying issue in these matchups with Johnson. He wants to follow the best receiver and make it a true one-on-one battle. But that rarely happens. And Johnson himself is realistic about that scenario.

“They know what I want and it’s not about what I want,” Johnson said. “If that’s something they feel is in the best interest of the team, the best interest of the defense, I’m going to go out there and what I do and play at a high level no matter who is in front of me. If they have me follow [or] they don’t, it doesn’t change for me. I’m definitely looking forward to that matchup, and if I can follow him around, it’s even better.” 

Adams was traded to the Raiders in March of last year after refusing to play for the franchise tag the Packers applied to him that offseason. He’s one of the few receivers from the Aaron Rodgers era who has thrived outside of Rodgers’ realm. Last season with Derek Carr — his former college teammate at Fresno State who was behind his desire to be traded to the Raiders — Adams had 100 receptions for 1,516 yards and a league-best 14 touchdown receptions. 

Over the last five full seasons (2018-22), Adams leads all NFL receivers with 532 receptions (106.4 per season), 6,826 yards (1,365 yards per season) and 61 touchdowns in 74 games. 

But it’s already been a little different this season, after Carr was released in February and signed with the Saints. With Jimmy Garoppolo starting five games, Aidan O’Connell one and Brian Hoyer replacing an injured Garoppolo last week against the Patriots, Adams has 39 receptions for 471 yards and three touchdowns. 

That’s still eighth in the NFL in receptions and 10th in yards, but his 78.5 yards per game is 92.2 average over the previous five seasons. Adams has six catches for 74 yards in his last two games. 

Johnson and Adams haven’t played against each other enough to have a personal rivalry. “It’s a mutual respect,” Johnson said. “I don’t think there have been too many people who have competed against him the way I have throughout the previous years. I definitely love his game, love the way he goes about his business and I have a lot of respect for him.” 

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