Run Access Throws

Today we will be talking about access or free throws on the backside of run plays.  As a Split End or X Receiver growing up in the late 1980's I was always stalking the deep man middle of the field on runs away from me.  My coaches would always tell us to work like hell to get to the FS because that was the "Home Run" block.  But then they would tell us that we may only get to that Safety 4 or 5 times a year, but when we do it will be a big play.  It was not very efficient in terms of time spent practicing it and times actually accomplishing it.  We were not an up tempo team so the QB was responsible for getting us in and out of good plays.  As a Head Coach today in an up tempo offense I choose to give my backside receivers and QB'S access or free throws.

We Are In Charge
As an up tempo team the Offensive Coordinator is in charge of getting the team into good play calls.  Let's be honest, we are going to watch way more film than a 16 year old QB so we should be in charge.  If you are going to try and play fast you have to give your QB a chance to get himself out of possible bad situations with easy throws.  You also want to be able to take anything "free" or easy the defense gives you.  If you are a check with me team it is much easier to get into good play calls after watching the defense line up.  As a tempo team it becomes a little harder.  Your goal is to call plays as fast as you can so you do not always see what the defense is in.  You are usually relying on film study and tendencies, but you are going to make bad calls as a tempo coach.  If you watch a lot of up tempo teams play, you will see them in some 2nd and 12-15 scenarios.  We have to be honest in our approach and understand the other team has coaches and players as well, and we can't win every down.  One of the ways you can help that is by using access throws on the backside of runs.  This will allow the QB to make decisions within play calls to put the offense in a good situation.  It also allows your receivers to stay excited with a chance to get the ball on run plays as well.  Your front side receivers will still have to block the point of attack but the guys backside will be running routes which is what they really want to do.  Everybody has seen their share of receivers backside taking plays off, heck I did it as a player as well.  Now with routes built in and the potential to get the ball, they won't take plays off(we hope).  As a Head Coach I would like to think that I do not tolerate guys taking plays off, but in reality it happens to all of us at all levels.

More Than One Way to Skin a Cat
You can choose several different routes on the backside to run.  Some guys like slants, others like outs.  I suggest keeping it simple while having an answer for press coverage and off coverage.  I try not to let the players make a lot of decisions, but rather give them rules on what they can run and when they can run it.  We have experimented with letting the QB give a signal for the routes which works when you have an experienced QB but I'm not sure how good that would be with a younger or newer QB.  The access throws theory allows me to call runs as quickly as I can or want while giving the QB a chance to take what the defense gives us, or get me out of a bad call if the side of the run is overloaded.  It also gives us a chance to use the same play 2 or 3 times in a row with the ball going to different players.  If you are going to be an up tempo team I suggest you use the access throws theory on the backside.  Remember the execution of these plays is more important than the scheme itself so coach all the little things up and clean it up.


Coaching An Effective Screen Game


 When discussing the Screen game in terms of offensive football we must consider the reasons we are calling screens.  I think it is commonly understood that screens were used to slow down an aggressive and effective pass rush.  But in today's game of up tempo football you are seeing screens used as a psychological ploy as well as a physical attack.  The idea now is to get the guys up front to have to run early and often, and then make them line up and do it again.  Teams are trying to take the legs out of the dominant rushers by taking the wind out of their sails.  The offenses intent is to make defensive lineman and linebackers fatigued which makes them easier to block late game.

First we must discuss the different types of screens an offensive coordinator can use to get the job done.
1)Bubble or Leverage Screens:These are outside quick screens where you are trying to get the ball in a play makers hands as quickly as possible.  Bubble screens usually have 1-2 blockers to account for 1-2 defenders in the area of the bubble screen that can make a play.  The term leverage means you are throwing the bubble based on the alignment of the defense because you have them "outleveraged".  Sometimes these screens can be part of a packaged play tagged with a run or sometimes they can be called plays.  They usually work better as part of a packaged run concept because the QB will make the decision to throw the bubble based on the alignment of the defense which assures a better success rate.
2)Stand Up or Now Screens: These are quick throws to the outside with receivers showing fast hands and feet and then flashing their numbers to the QB.  The receiver will not be moving towards or away from the QB and is actually catching the ball in his original alignment.  These are usually done vs soft coverage with no underneath help and considered an extended run play because the idea is to get it in the hands quickly of one of your best open field players.  You can also use the #2 or #3 receivers in sets where the defense does not cover down on receivers.  We usually try to get a RB and Playside Guard out as well to help block but the throw happens so fast they will only get there if your receiver makes the first man miss.
3)Slow or Tunnel Screens: These are screens that take time to develop, and unlike the first two mentioned will have multiple lineman out in front blocking for the receiver. These screens are usually thrown off of some type of 5 Step or Drop Back action because you need the Dline to get a good pass rush to help the play.  I usually throw these to my running backs, but I have used my #1WR with the same blocking assignments bringing the #1 receiver down inside toward the ball in a tunnel screen type of action.  We always pull the 2 Guards and the Center.  First man out has to kick out the first defender towards the sideline(sidewalk).  The 2nd OL player to get out turns up inside the kick out block and leads the receiver through the tunnel(alley).  The last lineman out has to wall off any backside players trying to chase the screen(Wall).  Sometimes we peel him back to pick up any defensive lineman that did not get a great pass rush(Rat Kill).   I like to leave my tackles on the ends the whole time to ensure they get a good upfield pass rush.
4)Jailbreak Screens: These are quicker released throws then slow screens usually thrown to receivers working all the way back inside towards the ball.  Most of the time at least 4 offensive lineman and sometimes 5 offensive lineman will release on these.  We generally just flash a quick high hat with our line and get all 5 of them involved in the screen.  We give them all landmarks to release to and not player or man assignments.  We send the tackles 2 yards inside the hash marks, the guards to the uprights and the center to the goalpost.  We tell them to block the first opposite colored jersey on their track.  Do not double team or stone a defender at the LOS because that defender will hurt the success of the play.
Screen With A Purpose
As an up tempo team, screens should be used early and often.  We want to mentally and physically fatigue our opponents.  It is OK if theses screens are not huge gains as long as the defense has to run to defend them, and you are forcing the issue with your tempo.  Remember slow screens will be less effective later in drives and later in games if your tempo is effective.  If they cannot rush the passer because they are tired then do not screen them.  When using bubble and stand up screens think about players not plays.  Try and get those throws into the hands of players that can take it to the house.