It’s getting late in the season and championships and play-offs are on the line. Finding a way to pick up a chunk of yardage or even a touchdown at a critical time can help propel your team towards its goals.
Adding a screen to what you already do can be a great way to get an explosive play. If you already run screens, you can make your screen game more multiple or add a screen to some of your best runs, passes or even to a wrinkle that you have already added.
Back in the beginning of my coaching career, a screen always seemed to be a stand-alone play. We ran receivers off and screened to the boundary or field, whichever seemed to provide the most advantage. Those kinds of screens became pretty easy to sniff out.
When you set up your terminology properly taking one component of your offense and adding it to another can provide great diversity in your offense, and the synergy of the two concepts can give you what you need for big plays.
For us, it was about realizing how we could take one word, in this case, “screen” and make it link for one component to another. The word “screen” is a conjunction in effect. We have a few types of screens in our offense. We refer to our tailback screen as “outside”, and block it the same way as a screen we throw to a slot receiver at essentially the same attack point. The slot screen is called “slip.” We tag in the letter of who the screen will be going to, and the direction. For example, “Y-Slip Right.” Our other screens are “now,” bubble and swing which don’t involve linemen blocking for the screen, just receivers blocking on the edge.
The rest of making our screens successful is about using our own tendencies and frequently used run and pass concepts to get the defense reacting one way to open up a clean alley and get our linemen out to their blocks. For example, if you have a crossing concept that you know pass defenders will run with, you can get the defense moving and reacting to open up the alley for the screen.
In the example below, we do just that. We get into a trips formation from which we were running a shallow cross concept early in the game. In game planning how that concept would be covered, we knew that it would be advantageous to run it to the field from our pass heavy personnel in a passing situation. On third and long we called “Z-Shallow, Screen S-Outside Lt”. For our receivers we communicated the passing concept we wanted them to run. We taught them who, when and where we wanted to turn the pass route into a block. The line is communicated to in the words after “screen” in that they would run our outside screen to the left, and the S knows he is getting the ball.
The result are blocks easily set up for our linemen with the pass defenders movements and a clean alley to run the screen into.
In the next example, we tag a screen into a run which was a wrinkle for our inside zone play. We fake the reverse play off the run and screen back to the tailback. The play call gives the run action for the line to start with and then the screen tagged with it – Orbit Reverse Left Screen S-Outside Rt. Again the word “screen” serves as a conjunction tying the two concepts together. The result is displacement of the defense and the screen digging us out from deep in our own territory. We went on to score on that drive.
Screens are great off of play-action. The defense reacts to the run, recovers to react to the play action routes, and is then hit with a screen away from where we have directed their attention. This screen is off of an inside zone naked going back to our tight end. The call is Naked Rt Y-Screen Outside Left.
We have even run a screen off of a screen. We have a swing screen to our tailback to which we have added a slip screen inside to our slot. We start to get the defense reacting to the motion we prefer to give our tailback leverage from the pistol with him going in fast motion toward the sideline. The quarterback looks at the screen and drops thee ball back into the slot who is running the slip screen back to the inside. Again, the defensive reaction is the key. Their movement to the swing creates space inside for the slip screen. In our terminology, this is Swing Right Screen J-Slip Rt.
In another example of a screen off of a screen, we throw the ball to the receiver on a receiver screen which also looks like our double pass and run a screen back to the other side to the quarterback.
Here are some recommendations for using a screen as a wrinkle added to concepts you are already running:
1. What plays that you run will cause the reaction you need to open an alley up to throw a screen. These should be runs, passes or play-actions that you know your opponent will be geared to stop. If you have a strong tendency that you know about, you may want to use a screen to exploit that tendency and the defense that has been prepared to stop it.
2. Which defenders are reacting the quickest? You should learn this from film study. One side of their defense may be better to screen to than the other. The most aggressive defenders are the easiest to screen. Use this information in setting up and designing this play call.
3. This isn’t necessarily something you need to save for late in the game. You merely need to confirm defensive reaction to the concept you are building it off of. After you use it the first time, it’s about having the coaches in the press box see when the defense is reacting aggressively again.
4. Know when you will want to run it. Is there a place on the field or a certain down or distance that will get a reaction out of the defense? Again, self-study of your own tendencies comes into play.
Good luck with the rest of the season. Hopefully, these concepts will provide you with an idea that can help your offense in crunch time.