Coaching An Effective Screen Game

SCREENS FOR ALL THE RIGHT REASONS


 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.  

PLAY FAST, THEN PLAY FASTER



Put Your Players in A Good Position

Give Your Players One Job




All too often in coaching we expect our players to do things that are just not possible.  We give them 2 or 3 assignments and when they get beat we scream at them.  I have been guilty of the same things myself in the past.  Maybe you tell your lineman to get movement on a double team and then yell when they don't come off for a backer.  Or you tell your corner not to get beat deep and then scream when he gives up a hitch route for 8 yards.  You want your backers to play hard downhill, but yell for more depth on play action.

PRIMETIME

Today I want to look at corner play in Cover 2 to a single receiver side.  You have to know what you want from your corner if you expect him to do his job.  I think you have two choices for your corners.  They can either support the run and give up a jam on the #1 receiver, or they can hard funnel the #1 receiver and be late in the run game.  If you are asking him to do both you are asking him to potentially fail.  Unless you have an extremely gifted corner it will be hard for him to do both jobs effectively. To get the most out of your corner in Cover 2 give him a job based on down and distance or tendency.  if you are expecting run then play him in a "Slice" technique and squeeze him hard into the D gap creating an 8 man front.  Just understand in doing this he will not jam #1 and might be late to the hitch or out cut.  If you are expecting pass or facing a dominant X receiver have him play a hard jam or funnel technique.  When doing this he may be late to support the run unless it is into the boundary. 

You are not playing a different coverage, you are just giving him a chance to be successful in a technique that you want him to play.  If you treat the single side of formations the same in your coverages, your players can get good at the different techniques you want them to play.  You will be presenting a different picture for the QB while playing the same coverage with your players.

We have to try and coach smarter not harder if we want our players to be successful.  Think about giving your players simple jobs that they can be effective playing and their confidence will increase and you will build trust with your players.
PLAY FAST