Could Dontae Johnson help the Detroit Lions’ pass defense in 2018?
The Detroit Lions were exceptionally good at covering an opposing team’s number one receiver in 2017. According to Football Outsiders, the Lions were third best in the NFL as they only gave up an average of 58 yards per game. This was due to the fact that Darius Slay followed and covered opposing team’s best receivers each and every game. It is apparent that after a team has basically shut down an opposing team’s best receiver that it would be smart to then shut down their second, third, and fourth best receivers as well but the Lions were not good against those receivers.
Football Outsiders has the Lions ranked 22nd against an opposing team’s second-best receiver and 20th against all other receivers. This truly shows that the Lions must get better at covering all of an opposing team’s receiving core if they want to improve upon their pass defense. One possible free agent option is San Francisco cornerback Dontae Johnson.
I have watched five of Johnson’s games from the 2017 season and have prepared an in-depth report to tell you if the Lions should take a look at him or find someone else to help improve their pass defense.
Name: Dontae Johnson
DOB: 12-01-1991 (26 years old)
College: North Carolina State
Drafted: 2014 – 4th round – San Francisco 49ers
Former Team: San Francisco 49ers
Games Played: 63
Games Started: 22
2017- No Injuries
2016- Groin (Weeks 16 – OUT, 17)
2015- Hamstring (Week 13), Ankle (Weeks 16-17)
2014 – No Injuries
2017- Led team with 76 tackles, T-1st with 7 PDs, and had 1 INT which he returned 50 yards for a TD.
Career- 145 tackles, 21 PDs, 2 INT, and 2 FR
Weight: 200 lbs.
40-yard dash: 4.45
10-yard split: 1.57
Arm Length: 31 1/2’’
Hand Size: 8 5/8’’
3 Cone: 6.82
Short Shuttle: 4.24
Broad Jump: 124’’
Bench Press: 12 reps
2017- @ SEA 09/17, @ ARZ 10/01, @ PHI 10/29, @ HOU 12/10, vs JAX 12/24
Best: Athletic Ability, Man Coverage, Zone Coverage, LOS Skills
Worst: Ball Skills, Run Support, Open Field Tackling
Athletic Ability: 4/7
Mental Processing: 3/7
Competitive Toughness: 3/7
Play Speed: 3/7
Play Strength: 3/7
Man Coverage: 4/7
Zone Coverage: 4/7
Ball Skills: 3/7
Line of Scrimmage Skills: 4/7
Run Support: 2/7
Open Field Tackling: 2/7
Blitzing: 0/7 – not applicable, read below
Johnson is a fourth-year player who played and started all 16 games for the San Francisco 49ers in 2017. Under defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, the 49ers switched from a 3-4 to a 4-3 hybrid scheme that has both 4-3 under and over formations. The 49ers played various coverages which included cover 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6 along with variations of them all. Johnson has solid size as both his height (6’2) and weight (200) are good while his arm length (31.5”) and hand size (8 5/8”) are adequate. He displays solid athletic ability as he has average agility, balance, and explosiveness out of his breaks while demonstrating solid foot quickness in both man and zone coverages.
He is average in both off-man and press-man coverage due to solid mental processing as he demonstrates route recognition both pre and post-snap and does an average job of mirroring slants, posts, drags, digs, and go routes. Johnson stays in good pad level and comes out of his breaks low and fast, he does a solid job of being in phase, has good closing speed, and matches his eyes with his feet well.
Johnson is solid in zone coverage as he does well in both pre and post-snap recognition to understand routes, combinations, and down & distance due to solid mental processing. He is solid in both dropping to a spot and pattern matching. Johnson is good at passing off routes and does an average job of playing curl/flat in cover 2 as he understands sinking/gaining depth when no threat is in his zone. He does a solid job of playing deep in cover 2, 3, and 4. Johnson has average play strength and competitive toughness in passing situations as he is able to win his battles in both man and zone coverage, is consistently physical in coverage, and competes at a high level.
Johnson has solid line of scrimmage skills as he shows the ability to disrupt receivers at/near the line of scrimmage as he has good patience, solid footwork, and solid hand placement as he stabs with the correct hand in press-man coverage. He displays solid ability to collision and expand as the curl/flat defender in cover 2 to disrupt the receiver’s route to help his safety and keeps his head on a swivel to see any threats. His blitzing ability is uncertain as he was not asked to blitz in the 49ers defensive scheme.
When in press-man and off-man coverage, Johnson has trouble defending double moves, comebacks, post corners, deep outs, and curl routes due to a lack of anticipation. He also has a tendency to create contact at the top of routes which led to 12 flags (7 DPI, 2 illegal use of hands, 3 holding) in 2017. In zone coverage, Johnson also has trouble defending comebacks and deep curl routes and he does not squeeze enough on post routes when nobody else is threatening his zone. He has adequate ball skills due to his lack of ability to track the ball, cannot locate passes with back to the quarterback, and lacks the strength to get the ball out at the catch point.
Johnson is marginal in run support as he diagnoses the run late displaying marginal mental processing, he struggles taking angles as he does not show the functional ability/willingness to get involved, struggles to disengage blocks, and has marginal ability to tackle the ball carrier. He displays struggles to tackle in the open field as he does not display the ability to leverage the ball, does not take good angles, and is not a sure tackler as he has poor form with marginal strength.
Overall, Johnson is a backup cornerback who wins with athletic ability, line of scrimmage skills, and the ability to play both man and zone coverage. His adequate ball skills, marginal open field tackling, and lack of run support limits him from being a role player. Although the Lions only have 3 cornerbacks currently signed for the 2018 season and Johnson’s 2017 cap hit was only $790,136; it would be best for them to continue looking at other available free agent cornerbacks as Dontae Johnson would not be a good fit for them.