2020 NFL Draft | Prospect film session with Utah cornerback Jaylon Johnson


I sat down for a film session with an extremely talented cornerback in Jaylon Johnson out of Utah. Outside of Jeff Okudah (Ohio State), he may be the best technician in a very talented cornerback class.

To start this interview, I wanted to ask Johnson about his labrum injury. He played throughout this entire past season with that torn labrum injury and I wanted to ask him why he decided to tough it out and play through the injury rather than let it heal:

“For me, there really wasn’t anything to think about besides playing through pain. I really wasn’t in a situation to get a repair, so it was just about me doing the best I can in that situation to play through the pain and it was something I did for a long time. I got used to it and it wasn’t as bad for me overall. It was just, thinking about what motivated me most through the pain and playing for the team and putting all of them before myself. It was too much of an opportunity to not participate with the team we had and with the opportunity I have at the next level. It was a no brainer to just play through it.”

Utah was an abundantly talented team last year with a ton of draftable players in this upcoming draft. I asked Johnson how he would describe playing with such a talented team this past year:

“I’d say this past year what we did better than previous years was that we did our jobs. It is hard to explain because we were so close and everybody just wanted to do their job and we wanted to see everyone else do their job. It was a very selfless group in the fact that it was easy to communicate. There weren’t any ego problems and we kind of got all that negative energy out the door which made working hard and staying locked in much easier. Nobody hated going to practice and getting in the game and playing together was something we found joy in doing. We all just bought in as one, watched film together, studied together and went out and had fun which made the game real easy.”

All of these clips in today’s film session are going to be from Johnson’s game against Washington State and its air raid offense. I asked Johnson what their film study was like the week prior and what their game plan was to shut them down:

“This was one of the weeks where we really really really hit the film hard. With air raid teams like this, they don’t do anything fancy. They don’t have too many passing concepts or formations because they like to go fast and get the ball going. For them, they had their set plays and set formations that they like to run so often times they had heavy tendencies that we were able to pick up on. Watching some of these clips, I can almost certainly tell you what they were gonna do based on the formation they were in or the splits that they had. Mike Leach is arrogant in the fact that he will try to throw the ball 80 times a game and they hope the defense messes up five or six times so they can score touchdowns. We were just locked in on this game on a different level.”

Clip 1

To start with this clip, I asked Johnson if he knew that the in route was coming based off of the formation:

“Yeah, with the doubles it was kind of obvious and then the No. 2 went in right away so with where he was on the field, he really had no other route to run besides an in or a sit down. For the most part, based on what number two did, it kind of eliminated routes for the one and I just tried to squeeze the one from the outside.”

Johnson fakes press coverage and then backs off into a bit of a trail technique on the outside. I asked him if he is in trail here or if this is standard cover two man for them:

“This is just basic cover two. For us, we were taught to always have outside leverage and not to let them outside so I was just trying to disguise a little bit in the beginning and then I bailed out and got back to my outside and then just played it from there.”

Johnson’s closing speed and leg drive on this pass is great. I asked him about his timing though and how he knows when to plant that back leg and drive on this in route:

“So in zone, it’s a lot easier because you can see the quarterback. In man it is a lot trickier but for me, I respect all routes. That is a part of my training and I take pride in being able to react to any double move. There’s times where guys will try to hit me with a double move and I’ll react and move when they move but I also don’t get caught in that double and try to stay attached. That’s when the preparation really comes in so you know when to break when they break and move when they move. They’ll give you tells when they are selling routes and whatnot but as you get higher in football, you just have to be able to react to each move.”

Clip 2

This next clip is all about press man and press technique. I asked Johnson if he likes to be physical at the line and get his hands on guys to disrupt routes:

“Yeah, but honestly I think I use my hands differently than most people use them for the fact that I don’t try to put hands on as a guy is juking or try to stab in the middle of a juke or the middle of a release per se. I try to wait and shadow until they break and then I get a hand on and widen them as far as possible with a firm pop on them. I like being physical and I definitely like using my hands but I also don’t like overdoing it and being too aggressive.”

I saw throughout this game that Johnson was being physical at the line. I asked him if that was a design thing to try and throw off the timing of the air raid offense:

“Yeah and due to the type of receivers they have. They weren’t physical receivers at all and they liked to do a lot of juking if you played so far off so just being able to play closer to them meant they couldn’t do all that juking and releasing stuff they wanted to do at the line. I just wanted to play tighter and speed up their release.”

I then asked Johnson how important it is to use that extra defender in the sideline to pinch receivers outside while in press man coverage:

“Yeah, that’s the key to being able to play the ball. If you think like a receiver, they try to preserve as much space as possible especially when you think of the deep ball. They like to preserve some sideline to give the quarterback an aiming point. If you squeeze them out that far down the field and towards the sideline then I feel like you get to the receiver. On the shorter and intermediate routes, it eliminates certain routes they can run because they have to go through you. If you are on the sideline, you can’t do too many routes. It just messes up a lot of the timing and the positioning that the quarterback and receiver want to be in.”

Clip 3

It is so important when in press man to stay square at the line of scrimmage and make receivers have to go through you. I asked Johnson about the importance of staying square in press man coverage:

“I feel like staying square and having good eyes is exactly what the receivers don’t like at the line of scrimmage and have a hard time dealing with. They are always taught to open you up or get you going one way so you can’t go back the other way but staying square eliminates all those problems. Just being able to stay square, slide, and keep your shoulders square to the line of scrimmage gives you a better opportunity to be able to react to the move. Then for me, just having those hands puts you in a better position to play the ball better.”

Johnson’s footwork is almost always perfect in press coverage. I asked him if that is something that he was good at coming into Utah or if the coaches had to work on that with him:

“That was a technique I had coming into college. Of course it wasn’t near as good as it is now but that was something I was taught by my dad and my brother in high school. It was something that I was used to doing. I just had to change up things like my stance and my position but for the most part my technique has always been a part of my game.”

Clip 4

This interception by Johnson is a great play in zone coverage. I asked him what coverage they are in on this play and what his reads are as the play progresses:

“We are in a cover three. We tried to give them different looks. We are in a cover three and I’m the underneath defender right now so I’m just trying to disguise as a cover two as much as possible and then I was just reading the quarterback. I knew I had a receiver behind me so I was trying to sink and play the running back and play the receiver that was coming over.”

In the NFL, it is so important to attack the ball in the air and Johnson does a great job of doing that here. I asked him if that is something that is a big part of his game:

“I will say that is something that I focused on being better at. I wouldn’t say that is something that I was always comfortable doing. I can definitely do it when I put my mind to it. Just training and trying to perfect my game, that was always something that I wanted to emphasize on doing when it came to playing the receiver and then playing that ball in the air and not always going for the pass breakup. Having the right to go get the ball and go get it is what I’ve worked on.”

Clip 5

Johnson plays the fade route perfectly on this play and forces the throw away. I asked him though how he approaches plays like this when the fade route or the slant are possibilities:

“I would say a lot of film study and then individually studying the receiver because I feel like receivers like to do different releases based on the route they are gonna run. On this one, it was just one of those film study things where they like to run that fade and I had some help inside as well. For me, it was honestly just film study and once I saw his release, he didn’t want to go inside at all. With his inside choppy release I knew right away he wasn’t going inside so I just stayed outside and he came back to me. It’s about that feel for the receiver and also the film study as well.”

Utah’s coaching staff is one of the best at developing talent and it shows on Johnson’s film and on all of his teammates’ film. I asked him if he thought Utah’s defensive coaches have prepared him for the NFL game:

“Yeah for sure. Not a knock on the players but I find that Utah never had too many five stars or four stars even. I feel like the coaches were forced to really coach when a lot of college coaches get great athletes and feel like they don’t have to teach them play or teach them how to watch film. That wasn’t their approach. They wanted us to be students of the game and to know exactly what we are doing and what we are looking at and how to take advantage of certain tendencies. They were very detail oriented when it came to the game and when it came to studying. They prepared us every day and they were on us every day. In terms of being versatile and learning different positions and being a leader to bring other people along and being a professional, they taught us a lot. Something they preached a lot was to learn to be a professional and learn how to be a good person so I feel like everything they taught us is something NFL teams look for. They’ve done a great job with what they’ve been able to work with and kids now are starting to see that aspect of the program and they are starting to get bigger and better recruits.”

I ended this interview with my typical question. I asked Johnson what my team was getting overall if they spent a draft pick on him:

“Somebody who cares just about life in the overall aspect. My image isn’t just a football player and that’s it. Somebody that cares about other people, cares about the game, cares about their family and somebody who cares about being successful and doesn’t just do things half-assed and is truly trying to be the best he can at helping other people even outside of football. Somebody who cares about everything they do and everything they are involved in. I apply that in all aspects whether it is helping somebody out or perfecting my craft. I just care about every situation and care about the bigger picture that I’m in.”

Scouting with Utah CB Jaylon Johnson