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.  


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