2nd & Long with Robert Johnson: How to beat Man Coverage

Football is more than just running around and hitting people, there is a very large amount of strategy involved. In past articles, I have explained the fundamentals of some very basic football plays used around the world. But what good is having great plays if you don’t know WHEN to use them?!? Football teams have many different ways to decide on their play selections, so I would be foolish to think I could tell anyone the best way, or even the most common method. Instead, I have teamed up with a Mike Leach Air Raid disciple who has made a name for himself in Europe as both a player and coach, Robert Hart Johnson. I will give Robert a few situations with predetermined factors. He will then proceed to explain how to run a successful offensive play in the situation. I have written down his answers, but he does his best work explaining on the chalkboard, like most football coaches.

Robert Johnson is one of the most accomplished American Football players in Europe. He is the winner of 5 Finnish Championships, 2 Vahteraliiga MVP Awards, 1 IFAF Champions League Title, and a member of Touchdown Europe’s Hall of Fame. Robert currently plays Quarterback and serves as the Head Coach for the Helsinki Wolverines in the Finnish League 1st Division


2nd & 7

Offense: Shotgun 2×2 Formation

Defense: 4-3 Formation, Cover 1 (Man)

Play: Slots Out

Play Explanation

I would run quick outs with the slot receivers. In cover 1 man, I would have a mismatch with an outside linebacker guarding a slot receiver. The outside receivers will run clear outs (Fly or Post routes), The runningback will have an out route against the linebacker in man coverage opposite of the slot receiver quick side. This means that the receiver matched up with the safety will run a seam route which clears the flat area for the runningback to run his out route against the linebacker. Now the Free Safety is out of the play as well as the cornerbacks, so we have clear 1 on 1 matchups with the outside linebackers.

If the defense were to run Cover 2 man, I would run the ball against a 5 man box.

If the defense were to run Cover 0 man, I would a screen or more quick game outside the hashes with the inside receivers. These would be easier throws for the quarterback so we can lead the receivers to the sidelines and prevent getting the ball batted in the air trying to throw in the middle of the field.


2nd & 8

Offense: Shotgun 3×1 Formation

Defense: 4-3 Formation, Cover 1 (Man)

Play: Mesh


Play Explanation

Versus man coverage, my #3 receiver to the trips side will be 1 on 1 with a linebacker, so I will run a mesh route. This is a natural pick play for the #3 receiver and #1 receiver on the opposite side. One of the defenders covering the mesh must go on top of the routes, the receiver that defender is covering will be the open man.



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