One thing I really, really like about coaching within collegiate rules (besides the OT rules and despite being down without contact) are the possibilities in the screen game. Here are some things to consider when putt in your screens:1. If you’re in the WFA, go find some film on the Chicago Force, especially the 2013 WFA Championship game. It should still be up on the watchgamefilm.com site. The Force may be the best screen team I’ve ever seen. The sheer variety that they run is dazzling, and they execute pretty well also.
2. Consider your personnel, and the types of DL that you face. Not all teams can run screens, not all teams are good to run screens against.
a. Ideally, you would have an offensive line that can get out in space and block. If your OL is more of the “two shoves and stop” variety, then running screens will be quite an undertaking.
b. If you are facing a DL that isn’t very active – i.e., they pretty much stay on the LOS, then traditional middle screens won’t be much help to you. One of those inactive DL may just luck into the play of their life and get a pick!
3. Types of screens – please note, this is a very high overview of the screen game…..
a. Middle Screens – might be the easiest to start with, just know that as I said above, the type of OL you have and the type of DL you are facing may have a bearing on how well it works for you. All you need to do is get a receiver over the middle, behind the LOS somehow….could be a TE from the LOS peeling back; could be a RB settling down as in pass pro, then turning around or it could be a WR coming in motion and being the receiver. There are all sorts of ways to make that happen. i. The OL basically just “loses the first hit”, while possibly shoving or clubbing the DL upfield, then they head downfield for second level defenders. If a DL refuses to disengage with them, then I tell my OL to stay on them. ii. As long as your OL can get a piece of the second level defenders, this play has a chance to be pretty good.
b. Wide Receiver Screens – these work pretty well, and don’t depend necessarily on your OL being mobile or the DL being aggressive. i. These can be either Bubble Screens, or Jailbreak Screens – 1. On the Bubble, a receiver (can be inside WR, motion WR or RB) arcs to the outside. The RB part of that can be especially deadly against teams who don’t adjust well to motion. 2. On the Jailbreak, the outer WR is coming in towards the ball. While it still works better if your OL can get up on the second level (NOTE: pretty much everything works better if your OL can move), the receiver can cut it up a bit more vertically if there is too much traffic further inside. ii. However, at least one of your WR’s had better be a beast when it comes to blocking, and it would be nice if the playside tackle can move a bit. Failing that, she needs to make sure the DE doesn’t get too far upfield and disrupt your throwing lane.
c. “Traditional” left or right RB screens – these I think are the hardest to implement, just because I think they do take more time, although if you happen to play under NFL rules (and maybe high school – I’ve lost track of what they do), they may be your best option. i. The way I taught this to the OL was as follows: 1. Playside tackle, set deep and drive the defender inside to clear the lane. Alternative was to club and drive upfield. Anything except let the DE sit there. 2. Playside guard/center: Whoever of the two is uncovered goes first and either takes “first force” or if they see a man-to-man LB following the RB, that LB. 3. Playside guard/center: Whoever is covered goes second and takes the alley defender (SS/OLB if #1 takes man LB or ILB if #1 takes first force). Basically, #2 reads #1’s block and does the opposite. 4. Backside guard: Is always #3 and goes last. Their job is to circle around and pick off the “first smart DL”. They would go pretty much flat down the line to about the playside B gap, and look back for the first DL to read and react to the screen. It should give an opportunity for a great block! 5. My overall rule for #’s 1, 2 and 3 is “win the first (hit), lose the second”. Using NFL rules, this will keep your OL within the normal boundaries allowed by the referees and not too far downfield. Coupled with a more lateral release due to the direction of the play, you should be fine.
4. When you install screens, make sure that as an OC you let your position coaches know in advance that it is going to happen that day. They should then drill the essential skills in their Indy period. Sure, there will be some minor timing issues when you come together as a group or team, but they will be minimal compared to if the individual positions have never even performed the blocks/schemes.
Screens are fun to run. They can be demoralizing to a defense, and really take their aggression out of the game. Funny story from last year….we were on the road against a team that had us (me and a coach from the other team) sharing a rather large pressbox. There was probably 15 or so feet in between us, so while we couldn’t hear each other in normal conversation, we certainly could if one or the other got excited. We were facing a 4th and 10 from their 27, and I called for a middle screen (in our terminology, it wouldn’t have been obvious to the other coach even if he heard it). Five seconds later, I could hear him say, “Bring pressure – bring everyone!” I just silently thought to myself, “YES!” The result? It went from a 4th and 10 situation to a touchdown.
OK….I think I’m gonna take Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve off. Over those two weeks, I would love to get some requests about issues/problems/questions you may have that you’d like to see addressed. You can either comment in the blog comment section, or hit me up directly via my Facebook page or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and I’ll talk to you again on January 7th!