View Full Version : Evolution of screen game has given passing attacks new element

tony hipchest
12-02-2010, 11:22 AM
excellent x's & o's article with informative chalkboard diagrams.

while many steelerfans will look at the bills 65 yd td as poor defense, it was more of an example of perfectly called and executed offense. (and to think we coulda dumped arians and hired gailey) :noidea:


After 12 weeks, there have been more than 12,000 pass attempts, meaning teams are averaging 36 pass plays a game.

The reality of teams throwing more has led to a need for finding different ways to do it.

A big part of that is the screen game, which is playing a larger role in NFL passing attacks than ever and the variety of screen concepts has grown. A screen, according to Webster's Dictionary, is a kind of sieve that lets something pass through and separate parts. That's what the concept of a screen pass really is, because the offense is intending to let pass rushers through while the linebackers and secondary are dropping quickly as they read pass from the quarterback's drop.

The screen pass is intended to be thrown just behind the line of scrimmage, which is the greatest distance between the rushing defensive linemen and the men in coverage. It should be a high-percentage completion and it has grown from one type of screen pass to about 10 different styles, all still taking advantage of separating layers of the defense.

Defenses try to counter with man-to-man principles, where the defender assigned to the person setting up to be the screen receiver is snatched and the quarterback is left throwing the pass away to prevent a loss. Last week, it looked like the offenses around the league won the chess match in this area.

Week 12 was a great example of where the screen game has gone in recent years and why it will continue to be a big part of the game.

Years ago, when teams averaged 20 pass plays a game, there was basically only one screen concept. Let's start our exploration of the screen game here.

[see link for diagrams]

Empty backfield screen (Diagram No. 5): The use of the empty set is a growing trend. It is a situation where the offense does not have any running backs in the backfield and, in many cases, no tight end in close to the tackle. Usually, there are three receivers to one side and two on the opposite.

Chan Gailey, the creative offensive-minded coach of the Bills, found a way to get the screen game going against the Steelers using this set. It was not really a smoke screen, like Hester ran, but a brilliantly designed play in a third-and-10 situationto get the ball in Fred Jackson's hands after selling the deep pass by using an empty formation. The outside receivers sold the deep pass, which eliminated multiple defenders, and the inside receiver on Jackson's side kicked out the defender on Jackson so he could step back and receive the ball. The three interior offensive linemen blocked and released up field and before you knew it, Jackson was behind a wall of blockers on his way to a 65-yard score.

There are many other screen concepts, including the read screen, where the quarterback has the option to throw downfield, usually to a curl route, if it's open, or a slow screen. There is the slip screen, which stems from an old run-and-shoot principle, usually from the shotgun in a one-back set that almost resembles a draw play. The throwback screen is employed when a team has a mobile quarterback who rolls out forcing a rotation in the defense and throws a screen back away from his rollout.

Ultimately, the truth about the screen game is that every team has to have a variety of screen concepts in their playbook to succeed in an era where passing dominates.

12-03-2010, 04:37 PM
Interesting read..