But that hasn't stopped the inexperienced rookie from performing like a seasoned pro early in his NFL career.
In Sunday's 17-14 comeback win over the Steelers, Knox had a team-high six receptions for 70 yards, including his first NFL touchdown on a 7-yard pass from quarterback Jay Cutler that tied the game 14-14 with 6:21 left in the fourth quarter.
“Johnny brings a lot to the table,” coach Lovie Smith said Monday at Halas Hall. “He doesn’t realize that he’s from Abilene Christian and he’s in the big city and supposed to be in awe with everything that’s going on. He’s making play after play.”
Knox’s first two receptions against the Steelers were both exceptional plays. First, he snared a high pass with cornerback William Gay hanging all over him for a 13-yard gain on third-and-three. Knox later made a veteran adjustment, ad-libbing his way to the right sideline after Cutler had scrambled out of the pocket and catching a 22-yard pass to help set up the Bears’ first touchdown.
“You never know how guys are going to react out there once the
lights turn on,” Cutler said. “You don’t know if guys are still going
to be able to play as fast as they are, and he’s one those guys, if not
faster. He’s out there buzzing around making some big catches with
people on him.
"And he’s not just making the standard catches. He caught that snag in there with the guy draped on him and turned it up. He’s going to be one of the guys that we’re going to look to in the future.”
That’s certainly high praise coming from a Pro Bowl quarterback, who has been impressed with Knox’s rapid development. A week earlier, the two connected on a 68-yard bomb in a loss to the Packers.
“In two games he’s come along,” Cutler said. “With [Devin Aromashodu] going down that first week [with a hamstring injury], we were kind of in a scramble. We put ‘13’ in there and he’s been turning out great. He’s in the right spots, he’s making some adjustments on the move.”
Cutler was especially excited to see how Knox instinctively dashed to the sideline on his 22-yard reception late in the first half Sunday against the Steelers.
“It’s not something we called,” Cutler said. “It was just him out there using his ability. I told him, ‘Congratulations, you’re no longer a rookie. You’re out there playing with us, and you’re doing some good things for us.’”
The veteran quarterback and rookie receiver will be forever linked, given that the Bears selected Knox with the fifth-round pick they received from the Broncos in the Cutler trade.
Knox is not among those who are surprised by his early success. “I always thought I could play at this level,” he said. “I just try to be confident in everything I do.”
After two games, Knox leads Bears receivers with 152 yards and he is tied for second with Devin Hester with eight receptions, one behind Earl Bennett.
“The guy’s made progress it seems like every time we put him in position to,” Smith said. “From the first preseason game to the next, it seems like he does something each week that he hasn’t done before.”
Offensive coordinator Ron Turner said that Knox possesses a firm grasp of the Bears playbook.
“We can call what we want to call,” Turner said. “We don’t have to
hold anything back for him. He’s doing a good job of handling
everything. He’s been very impressive from the first day he got here.
"We all commented that a lot of times young guys come in and it takes them a while to learn to play fast, to play the game at the speed you have to play it. But he did it from Day 1. He hasn’t gotten big eyes or anything. He just goes out and plays, and plays with confidence.”