Bears can contain Johnson

But it won't be easy for Wright to use proper Cover-2 technique and stay on top of receiver

With the Lions needing a victory to get back in the NFC North race, Bears safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte should expect wide receiver Calvin Johnson to test them down the field Monday night.

As shown here, the Lions have their Ace personnel (two wide receivers, two tight ends, one running back) on the field in a "Unit" alignment (two-by-two with both tight ends attached to the core of the formation). The Bears counter with their base 4-3 defense in an "Over" front playing Cover-2 in the secondary. The Lions will look to target Johnson on the "Dino" route.

Wide receiver splits

The splits of the wide receivers are a top priority when you break the huddle as a defensive back. Here, both Johnson (Z) and Nate Burleson (X) are aligning inside of the numbers with the ball at (or near) midfield. Studying the Lions offense, this should be an automatic alert to play for a vertical shot down the field.

Lions' route concept

This is a Flat-7 (corner) with Johnson running the "Dino" route (stem to the corner, break back to the post). To the open (weak) side of the formation, Tony Scheffler (U) will burst to the flat with Burleson taking a hard inside release and working up the field on the 7 route. To the closed side, Brandon Pettigrew (Y) is running the flat route with Johnson on the deep double move.

Re-routing No. 1

In Cover-2, cornerbacks Charles Tillman (RC) and Tim Jennings (LC) are taught to jam and re-route No. 1 (X and Z) to take some stress off the safeties. However, both Burleson and Johnson are taking inside releases from a reduced alignment. The Bears corners can't chase the inside release and get out-leveraged to the flat in Cover-2. That means Conte and Wright will be playing the deep half versus two receivers clean off the line of scrimmage. This is a tough assignment for any Cover-2 safety.

Defending deep "Dino" route

There is no need for a safety to guess on a double-move. He should play with depth, stay square and trust what he sees. Strong safety Wright has to remember Jennings is sinking underneath the possible 7 cut from Johnson and will protect him up the sideline. By staying square in his pedal, Wright can play over the top of Johnson, open his hips after the wide receiver declares to the post and drive to the upfield shoulder.

Play ball at highest point

Wright should get some help from free safety Conte overlapping to the middle of the field, but this is still his play to make. Even if Wright plays the proper technique and puts himself in a position to stay over the top of Johnson, quarterback Matthew Stafford still can take a shot here. Wright must climb the ladder and play this ball at the highest point, because no one in the NFL finishes plays down the field like Johnson.

Twitter @MattBowen41

Special contributor Matt Bowen, who played at Glenbard West and Iowa, spent seven seasons in the NFL as a strong safety. You also can find his work at nationalfootballpost.com.

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