Never underestimate the value a true No. 1 corner can bring to a defense.
The examples of a defense-changing cornerback are plentiful: The 2009 New York Jets defense — which was schemed almost entirely around cornerback Darrelle Revis — was one of the best defenses in modern football history, while the New Orleans Saints' defense was brought back from years of inferiority by the arrival of Marshon Lattimore in 2017. Now, one corner may very well be bringing the Chicago Bears' defense back to their spot atop the NFL.
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There was no question that the Bears had the best defense in the league back in 2018. Not only did their 1.46 points allowed per drive lead the league, but their 19.5% turnover rate per possession was tops in the NFL, as well. They ranked first overall in PFF's team coverage, run-defense and overall defense grades that season.
However, defensive success can be fickle, and that's because it is far more weak-link driven than offensive success is. A combination of key injuries, key departures and regression led to a drop-off from Chicago in 2019 — their points allowed per drive jumped to 1.68 (6th), while their turnover rate per possession plummeted to 10.6%.
But now there's reason to believe that their downward trend year over year could be changing. If rookie cornerback Jaylon Johnson keeps playing the way he has, the Bears could quite easily get back to that 2018 level.