Equanimeous St. Brown's 2018: Zone Recognition

Dusty concludes his look at EQ's 2018 season by breaking down his coverage recognition skills

Welcome back to part 3 of our series where we break down the 2018 season of one Mr. Equanimeous Tristran Imhotep J. St. Brown (or EQ, because we're into the whole brevity thing). In part 1, we talked about his route-running. In part 2, we talked about his run-blocking and speed. In this final article, we will be looking at a few clips related to his zone recognition. 

Zone recognition is a fairly big deal, especially when playing with veteran quarterback. You're not just reading the zone itself: you're reading the zone in terms of what the QB is looking for when the play starts to break down. When do you sit and signal that you've found a hole in the zone and when do you keep drifting/running? That's what we're looking at today.

Before we do that, let's talk about the phrase "throttling down," which you're going to see in this article. It's a term that is used when talking about reading/reacting to zone coverage. If there is a hole in the zone, the receiver should slow his route and/or sit in the hole. That act of adjusting the route to account for that hole is referred to as "throttling down" in the zone. 

Now that we've got that little bit of terminology out of the way, we're ready to roll.

EQ is running a dig as the under man out of a stack look. Marquez Valdes-Scantling is the up-man. Valdes-Scantling runs straight through the middle to help clear room for the dig from EQ. The Seahawks are in a Cover 3 look, so the boundary defender passes off EQ to the deep-dropping linebackers in the middle. The umbrella of 4 defenders playing the second level of the defense are reading the action in front of them: if someone comes into their zone underneath, they collapse and protect the sticks. If no one does, drop back into zone. You can see the boundary defenders in that umbrella collapsing on the flare-outs from the offense, while the middle of the umbrella drops back into zone.

With the linebackers dropping wide in the middle, Valdes-Scantling isn't open, but EQ has a hole in the zone to work with. Rodgers anticipates EQ throttling down in the zone and throws between the two defenders. EQ doesn't read this properly and continues his route through the middle. The ball ends up behind him, falling incomplete.

EQ is running a crosser from off the left side of the line, acting as the second level of the play-action bootleg route combination. As Rodgers is rolling out, the Falcons are falling back into their zones after reacting to the playfake. Vic Beasley [44] is on the edge, and as Rodgers is reading the defense, Beasley appears to be dropping back into a zone at the numbers. EQ has a defender in pursuit, but he's roughly 5 yards behind. Between those two things, Rodgers is expecting EQ to throttle down just outside the hashmarks.

With the safety looming over the top, Rodgers doesn't want to throw this until EQ pulls up, because it could easily be an interception if the ball is thrown behind EQ and pops into the air. 

Now, I don't know that Rodgers is totally in the right, here. He waits a beat too long to throw it. If he throws it immediately, Beasley has no shot at it. That slight hesitation gets him reading Beasley dropping back, and once that happens Rodgers just wants EQ to throttle down. EQ never throttles down and Rodgers ends up throwing the ball away.

For me, this one likely tends more towards miscommunication between QB and WR rather than straight zone recognition, but that line gets pretty thin.

I wanted to close out with an example from EQ's last game of 2018: the overtime win against the Jets. EQ is running a pivot route from off the left side of the line. He is able to create separation out of the break. He sits in his spot, recognizes that Rodgers is holding the ball, and begins working to the middle of the field and away from his defender. He starts slow, not knowing what the linebacker in the middle is doing. Once the linebacker commits to picking up Jamaal Williams out of the backfield, EQ starts working his way across the field; over the linebacker and into open space.

I realize that we only looked at three plays, but I chose these for a reason; I thought these did a good job of showing his improvement over the span of a couple of weeks. I'm not saying that EQ is a totally finished product and will always be 100% in sync with Rodgers, but he did show improvement in his coverage recognition skills as the season went on, and I found that to be encouraging. 

This concludes our three-part look at EQ's 2018 season. I hope you enjoyed reading about it half as much as I enjoyed researching it. Before we conclude this, I wanted to give a wrap-up of my thoughts.

EQ certainly has some really nice abilities. He's a good route-runner who knows how to use leverage and speed. He's a willing blocker who understands what he is supposed to do on any given play. And, as we saw today, his vision of the field improved as the season went on. We don't know how the loss of an entire season - and a very strange offseason - will impact his play, but, given what we saw in 2018, I believe he could have a very good 2020 season. He fits well into the Matt LaFleur offense and could be used in a variety of ways that will add significant value to concepts we saw last year. His combination of speed, height and route-running will allow LaFleur to move him around on a play-by-play basis and use him to create mismatches.

I fully believe he will be a key contributor on offense, and I can't wait to see him out on the field. 

Albums listened to: Sam Cooke - Ain't That Good News; Nina Simone - Nina Simone Sings the Blues; John Coltrane - A Love Supreme


Dusty Evely is a film analyst for Cheesehead TV. He can be heard talking about the Packers on Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter at @DustyEvely or email at [email protected].

6 points

Comments (8)

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Roadrunner23's picture

September 09, 2020 at 03:54 pm

Good stuff Dusty, lets hope the light bulb goes on in year 3 for EQ!

-1 points
Handsback's picture

September 09, 2020 at 03:55 pm

Thanks Dusty, EQ and MVS need to step up this season if the Packers are going to make a run for the Lombardi trophy.

-2 points
Bear's picture

September 09, 2020 at 04:28 pm

Thanks Dusty. It shows how many times Rodgers had an open man early but didn’t release the ball.

3 points
PF4L's picture

September 09, 2020 at 06:37 pm


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jannes bjornson's picture

September 10, 2020 at 11:47 am

MVS did not square off his route to move his man with him and clear out EQ's zone. Rookie season and all that ,but he has to learn to cut and drive. Maybe Moss worked on his footwork along with his hands?

-1 points
KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

September 09, 2020 at 09:35 pm

Thanks Dusty!
This is really good stuff!

I am a big ESB fan and expecting a great year from him.

0 points
PatrickGB's picture

September 09, 2020 at 10:51 pm

Good stuff. Thanks for the article and your work. Maybe someday I will be able to recognize routes when watching the game.

0 points
christiebrwn80's picture

September 10, 2020 at 07:58 am

A Halloween occasion is only a normal yearly occasion for a considerable lot of us

0 points