Many teams utilize some form of quick screen or pass to protect their run plays. These concepts truly began to take shape when coaches realized that running zone read causes their quarterback to take on added contact from linebackers and strong safeties.
What developed was screen plays onto the back side of inside zone runs and similar plays to avoid having the quarterback involved in carrying the ball too much. In theory – and sometimes in practice – an entire offense could be constructed with a quick screen or a quick pass attached to every run play in an offense’s arsenal.
Let’s talk about how to do that, focusing on inside zone and counter trey as the two examples for run plays while a fast screen and bubble screen form the backbone of quick screen concepts.
There are several possibilities for tagging quick passes onto running plays, such as a quick screen to a one-back power play. The number of concepts is almost endless. But for the purposes of this one article, let’s set our base with the two mentioned above.
Basic run plays packaged with the bubble and fast screen
The simplest way to execute a run play packaged with a quick screen is to call the inside zone and package it with a bubble screen on the backside. You can do this easily out of a 2-by-2 or a 3-by-1 structure.
For us, it has been most effective from a 3-by-1 set because that structure creates a better situation that the defense cover the receiver running the bubble screen too closely.
Often, the defense will cover the outside receiver and have a defender split the difference between the two inside receivers, creating a void where the ball can be safely thrown with a lead blocker in front.
When this is observed, the play caller can simply signal this in that the screen play is to be featured. In time, quarterbacks become so proficient at this sort of read that some coaches allow their quarterbacks to make this decision themselves.
This is not a traditional zone read play, and sometimes the defensive end will be blocked by the tackle or bumped to slow him down. The quarterback, if he is allowed to read the play, must make his decisions presnap based upon numbers. If the defense covers the trips set with only two defenders within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, he should throw the ball out the back door to the bubble screen receiver. If the defense has all three receivers covered down closely, then the quarterback can just hand the ball off on the inside zone.
If the quarterback’s judgment is cloudy, coach him to just hand the ball off and live to play another down.
Some defenses play the trips structure differently and allow more space over the outside receiver than they do the two inside receivers. This type of defensive structure necessitates a change in screen choices.
When teams give a cushion or play at depth over the outside receiver, then the fast screen is a great package complement to the interior run play.
This screen requires the quarterback to make a longer throw to the perimeter, but it has the added advantage that the ball is staying away from the majority of defenders.
The receivers can execute a cross block (as seen above) or can block the defender straight ahead of them (below).
The fast screen and bubble screen can be married to any interior play, but they work especially well with any sort of zone run concept or the counter try run play. The ability of the offense to throw the ball outside at the final moment reduces defensive pursuit possibilities and forces the defense to respect the entire field.
Rich Hargitt is the assistant head football coach and offensive coordinator at Eastside High School in Taylors, S.C. He has served as a head football coach and offensive coordinator at the high school level in Illinois, Indiana, North Carolina and South Carolina.