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The Browns Defense Tried to Confuse Lamar Jackson – It Didn’t go Well

Posted by Alex Kirby on

This is an incredible disguise by Cleveland's defense, but an even better decision by Lamar Jackson to pull it down and use his legs. Let's go deeper into why this play is so interesting.

Every NFL team loves to split TEs and RBs out wide, and use different formations to force the defense to declare coverage. If you move your TE or RB out wide and they bring a safety or a linebacker over, it's almost always a man call. If they keep a corner over there, it's zone.

So when offenses line up in empty like this, they have a man beater and a zone beater on different sides. If it's man, you'll throw to one side and if it's zone you'll throw to the other. It's pretty simple, and it's something that's easy to teach.

You'll see the pre-snap look in the diagram below.

That's how it works most of the time, but NFL defenses are catching up. Here the Ravens split out RB JK Dobbins to the top of the formation and Cleveland puts the CB Denzel Ward across from him.

The defense looks like they're sitting in a zone, right?


Check out the diagram below to see the difference between the pre-snap and post-snap looks.

Ravens Empty Formation Post-Snap

Lamar gets a zone look, so he's expecting that corner across from #27 Dobbins to play soft in a zone.

Instead it's man coverage, and Cleveland brings a five man pressure that forces Lamar to run.

Realistically, the Browns are being a little unsound in their pass coverage, but they can get away with it because they have a pretty good idea of where the ball is going against this look. Fortunately for Baltimore, Lamar doesn't force a bad throw, and instead takes off.

These are the kinds of decisions that keep coaches happy, and are the difference between an athletic QB with a good arm, and a great passer who also happens to have enough speed to beat you to the corner.