Now its on to the future and into the latest phase of the Bears’ massive reboot, which is continuing with the first week of organized team activities in Lake Forest. Johnson took the practice field Tuesday with a lot of new faces around him. He has a new head coach in Matt Eberflus, a new defensive coordinator in Alan Williams and a new defensive backs coach in James Rowe.
The Bears also used last month’s draft to make upgrades to their secondary, adding cornerback Kyler Gordon and safety Jaquan Brisker with second-round selections. Both rookies project to be Week 1 starters.
Johnson is observant enough to realize there’s a whole lot of starting over again happening at Halas Hall — even for established veterans.
“It’s a complete reset,” he said. “Everything I’ve done in the past with the other coaches, with the other staff, it really doesn’t mean anything.
“I mean, the film is not going to lie to you. But at the end of the day, they want me to show them what I can do in person.”
So what can Johnson teach the new coaching staff in the next month during OTAs and minicamp?
“It just comes down to work ethic,” he said. “It’s just earning that respect as a hard worker and doing extra. I mean, right now it’s not too much about production. It’s really about knowing your assignment and playing hard.”
Johnson was impressive through large stretches of 2021, raising his hand to shadow the opponent’s top receiver when necessary and showing he’s more than capable of growing into an NFL standout. His interception total (one) through two seasons leaves something to be desired, but he earned respect throughout the locker room last year with his competitive edge, to-the-point voice and tone-setting approach to practices and games.
On multiple occasions, former Bears safety Tashaun Gipson endorsed Johnson as an emerging star with the potential to become a top-five cornerback in the league. But at least for now, Eberflus is challenging Johnson to prove himself every day.
After saying Tuesday that Gordon has been “lighting it up” in practice this week, Eberflus called Johnson “a work in progress,” emphasizing that the third-year cornerback has plenty to work on.