As NFL offenses have shifted to having three receiver sets becoming the base offense and elite tight ends popping up each year, NFL defenses have been trying to find more versatile defenders to try and slow them down. That is why a player like JoJo Domann who plays a hybrid safety/linebacker is such an interesting NFL Draft prospect.
The linebackers who are successful in the NFL today are those who can hit, run and cover. So when I watched Domann play against Penn State, these are the three areas I focused on for this week’s Scouting Perspective.
The Nittany Lions lined up several times in multiple receiver sets which meant that Domann was lined up in the slot over either a tight end or receiver. This didn’t stop him from being able to use his power to make tackles on the perimeter. Domann was able to come up strong and pop a receiver knocking him back which allowed him to make a tackle on the tight end while another play he shot forward and was able to trip up the running back on a wide run.
While Domann spent a good amount of his time in space he was also used to rush off the edge collecting a couple of tackles for loss. On a zone read play Domann was the unblocked defender but burst so fast into the backfield that he was able to hit the running back at the mesh point and make the tackle for loss. Even on a third and short in the red zone, Domann’s burst allowed him to get deep into the backfield and he was able to dive and trip up the quarterback as he fled up the middle, falling short of the yard to gain.
Nobody is going to confuse JoJo Domann as this elite athlete who is flying around from sideline to sideline. But Domann does have enough athletic ability and speed to go along with good instincts that finds him always around the ball. During the first quarter Domann blitzed off the left edge and was able to chase down Sean Clifford as he rolled to his right making the sack before Clifford was able to make the throw.
Domann isn’t an elite athlete but showed against Penn State that he can flow in zone coverage while also matching up man to man. One of Domann’s responsibilities in this defense is being the wide side flat defender. Domann can flow well and cover his short area well, he did lose track of receivers within his zone allowing a couple of catches, including a key fourth down catch along the sideline on Penn State’s final drive.
Domann was tasked with matching up with tight end Pat Freiermuth, who is viewed as a top 50 NFL Draft prospect, at various points throughout the game. Freiermuth is a tough assignment, but Domann held his own. Showing patience and anticipation, Domann was able to wait and see what Freiermuth was going to do at the stem of his route and quickly react to cover him up, taking away an out route at one point and later a slant. Even on Penn State’s final attempts to tie the game Domann was able to get his hand in and break up a pass intended for Freiermuth.
JoJo Domann has been one of my favorite Huskers players to watch and I love his versatility and ability to make plays. When it’s all said and done I think Domann is going to be valued for his coverage skills and the occasional blitzing. Domann will likely be a late round option for some teams who need some depth at linebacker and someone who could play on various special teams units. The best case scenario for Domann would be to follow in the footsteps of Nate Gerry who started out on special teams before eventually developing and earning a starting role.