NAME: Jaquan Johnson
JERSEY: No. 4
RECRUITMENT RATING: 4-star
WT: 190 lbs
Coverage – Skill set is incomplete in coverage, particularly for a guy that has so much experience. Often slow/late reaching landmarks in zone coverage. Tight hips and modest route anticipation skills limit him in man coverage. Most effective in split zones with smaller areas of responsibility.
Tackling – Plays above his weight class as a tackler. Aggressively attacks the ball carrier and does well to wrap low and bring his feet through contact. Rarely whiffs and puts himself in good position to finish. Will occasionally concede some yardage after contact on account of his size but his contact power and balance is excellent.
Processing – Will get sucked in on play fakes and get stuck in a state of recovery. Must improve awareness on routes to his zone and anticipate route concepts better. Plays forward against the run and quick game very well.
Ball Skills – Doesn’t have the anticipation skills to position himself regularly to compete for the ball. Modest ball production tells the story. Limited length limits his ability to make plays at the catch point. Slow to find the ball in the air. Does well as a tackler to try and separate the football from the ball carrier.
Range – Showcases the ability to take sound angles to the football which accentuates the amount of ground he can cover. Doesn’t have top end long speed and is quicker than fast. Modest processing skills limit his ability to reach landmarks in coverage.
Physicality – Plays like a dog attacking forward with urgency and intent. Always finds his way to the football and pursues relentlessly. Willing to take on blocks from offensive lineman and explode into contact. Plays under control surprisingly well for his how aggressive he is.
Play Speed – Falls short of what is desired for a centerfield and he struggles to remain in-phase when tasked with carrying routes into space in man coverage duties. Processes the run and quick game rapidly and fires downhill.
Flexibility – Has some tightness in his hips that is exposed when tasked with flipping and running. Plays upright in coverage and lacks bend. Feet can get flat-footed and there are false steps in transitions. Can attack creases and contort his frame to get around blocks and find the football.
Versatility – Has limitations in man coverage and single high looks. Not a candidate for box duty unless its as an extra defender. Has upside on sub-packages and special teams but there are concessions that have to be considered when he is on the field defensively.
BEST TRAIT – Physicality
WORST TRAIT – Ball Skills
RED FLAGS – None
There is so much to like about the way Johnson plays forward by aggressively attacking the football, playing thought contact and finishing. With that said, his body composition doesn’t mesh well with his best qualities as a football player. While the NFL likes physical and aggressive safeties, it covets those that are sound in coverage and can make game-changing plays on the ball – that’s where Johnson is lacking. His coverage instincts and ball skills are below average, especially for a player with his experience. Johnson should be a special teams standout that offers upside in sub-packages on defense but there is considerable growth needed for him to be viewed as a starter.
Coverage Spacing –Like his burst and range, can cover a lot of space in the intermediate areas and shows good angular attack of routes sitting down in his peripherals as QBs guide him to the throw. Will get tossed around in the contact window vs. big slots and TEs.
Acceleration –Pretty rangy. I like his explosiveness in his first step and when dropping an foot and driving forward into the play. Long speed is just as good, although his usage in the deeper areas of the field was more sparing than you’d expect.
Tackling –Plays aggressive and puts a lot of force into his pads. That said, he can get pushed backwards by powerful backs, even if he has leverage on the play. Like his awareness to get down around the legs and lasso a ball carrier. Reliable run defender in the D-gap to force a cut.
Zone Coverage Skills –For such a free mover, you’d expect a little more promptness to attack throws. That said, anticipatory qualities never progressed from 2017 and his late reaction skills as the ball flashes across his face further amplify the issue.
Ball Skills – Lack of wingspan and pedestrian anticipation of route combinations makes for a pretty slight set of opportunities. Has let the ball eat him up and get on top of him too quickly, missing more than one chance to make a splash play.
Competitive Toughness –Effort level is there, he’s been seen working off the back-side of plays and pursuing 10+ yards down the field. Tackling power is only modest and his functional strength leaves something to be desired, he got run over vs. blockers in the box.
Flexibility –Like his ability to carry speed through corners, which is aided by lower body lean and ability to drop the hips low to carry momentum. His hip hinge is effective and his feet show comfort in playing away from his center of gravity under his hips.
Feet/Change of Direction –He’s pretty twitched up. He can dart across the face of a receiver as a blocker with little issue and he’s shown he can undercut a play and still get home thanks to good initial spring and athleticism. His transitions in space are compact and sufficient.
Man Coverage Skills –A good open field athlete, he’s much more pedestrian when having to play direct coverage on receivers. He doesn’t show a lot of confidence in his hip swerve to get up the field and run with receivers. Is late to break and react on patterns in front of his face.
Versatility –He’s been played all over and ultimately think he’s a sub-package guy only. His coverage restrictions and modest physical tools to occupy space make him a tough sell to play in the secondary in high snap percentages.
BEST TRAIT – Acceleration
WORST TRAIT – Ball Skills
BEST FILM – Virginia(2018)
WORST FILM – LSU (2018)
RED FLAGS – None
Jaquan Johnson is a bit frustrating study, given his clear physical tools and tackling discipline to make an impact but his struggles to deal with physical play from blockers in the box and receivers in coverage. Johnson’s best projection is likely as a nickel and dime defender, where his tackling can supplement and aid vs. the run and his speed can allow him to constantly work in space as a zone pass defender. Niche player but definitely an NFL contributor on defense.