clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

One Linebacker Covers For Another, Twice In One Play

New, 53 comments

Jan Johnson switched with Cam Brown, handled the assignment, before saving Micah Parsons from giving up a large gain.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 27 Penn State at Maryland

There were many big plays for Penn State by the time the game was in hand late on Friday night. The play got the ball rolling early for the Lions was made by starting middle linebacker Jan Johnson.

We all remember the interception, but there was more to this play than meets the eye at first glance. Two senior linebackers worked well to switch responsibilities at the snap, but it was Johnson’s ability to come back and help Micah Parsons that changed the play from a large gain for Maryland into the play of the game for Penn State.

Setting The Stage

John Reid (29) and Lamont Wade (38) were matched up opposite two wide receivers at the top of the screen. Cam Brown (6) was positioned opposite the slot receiver, poised to take away anything underneath Reid and Wade or chase a crossing pattern. At the snap of the ball, Brown blitzed and Jan Johnson (36) switched positions with him, moving outside from his spot behind the defensive end.

Once the receiver cut across the middle, Johnson knew that there were two defensive backs covering just one receiver behind him, so he didn’t have to worry about helping them. He had to follow the underneath route. That brought him right to where the ball was thrown, and thankfully, Johnson had his eyes on both his man and also the ball.

Take another look from the end zone and you can see Jan Johnson initially had his back turned to the area of the field that the ball would eventually be thrown. That convinced quarterback Josh Jackson that the middle of the field was open other than Micah Parsons covering inside. Jackson’s eyes were on Cam Brown blitzing as the ball was snapped, and with Johnson turned away from the middle of the field, the post pattern appeared to be wide open.

As you can see, Parsons (11) was about to be beaten for a long gain had Johnson not made the play. There was no safety help behind Parsons in the deep middle. Parsons went a bit too far outside and then didn’t have his feet in a good position to cut at the point that the receiver made his move to the inside.

There wasn’t much tape of Parsons on Friday, since he left the game in the first quarter, but this will be something that he can work on. With Tariq Castro-Fields taking the deep outside, Parsons had no reason to chase so far away from the middle. Had there been a little more air under the pass, it would have gone for at least a thirty yard gain since safety Lamont Wade on the other side was that far downfield when the pass was thrown.

Instead it was the first turnover of the game, setting up the eventual game-winning score, an 8-yard run by Sean Clifford just 4 seconds after the Lions touched the ball for the first time.

Had the pass been complete, Maryland may have been able to hang in the game longer than they did on Friday night. Thanks to some savvy pass coverage by a veteran middle linebacker, the play was a highlight for the Lions, not the Terps. It would have been the longest play from scrimmage on the day for Maryland had it been completed since the team did not manage a single play over 20 yards.