Using Explosive Plays: Screens, Draws and Reverses

By Ray Gregory

Why use explosives plays?

  • It is simple preparation for you, adding and prepping plays for the week.
  • It creates less time that opponents can spend working on your base plays. Adding work to opponents is always a good thing.
  • It allows play callers to get the football to special players different ways.
  • It adds dimension to your offense.
  • It can be a momentum shifter, creating a big play.
  • It can hurt fast defenses in pursuant to the ball quickly. The best time to call is when it catches everyone by surprise so mix it up and have fun with trick plays.

Keys to successful explosive plays:

  • They must compliment or be part of your package to be successful.
  • They are part of every week’s game plan.
  • I.S.S. (keep it simple stupid)
  • Finding the right time to call the play
  • Must use in games to force defensive preparation
  • Calling explosive plays allow for preparation meet opportunity – create your own luck

Screen facts:

  • Slows down the defense linemen’s rush and entire defense
  • Hurt the blitz
  • High percentage of pass play with big play potential

Types of screens:

Flare or fast screens. Throw to the widest receiver as quickly as possible. The quarterback gets the snap and throws immediately or almost immediately. This play happens fast and even moreso to the short side of the field.

Flare screen and go. This is a double move. The offensive skill player fakes as if he or she is blocking, but really, the receiver is looking to sell the fast screen, often finding lots of open space because of to defensive breakdowns or the cover player sneaking a peak inside.

Bubble. A safe, easy toss to the No. 2 receiver in doubles or the No. 3 receiver in trips. A back can also run the bubble.

Run bubble anytime in trips that No. 3 is not covered. It is simple pass to complete. This screen allows teams to get down blocks on outside defenders and one on one against the corner out of trips set. Many teams use this as a run play as they get the ball out quickly in space. If the receiver can make one defender miss, cue up the band. An offshoot of this play is running it for an ineligible receiver on a backward pass.

Bubble and go. Run from balanced spread, trips or quads, it includes any two-playercombination route such as verticals or comeback switch. The play slows the defense, allowing for deeper routes. Teams can use double moves such as out and up from the No. 1 and followed by the No. 2 receiver as a two-man vertical mini flood.

Offenses in guns set can have a running back run across the quarterback’s face to give the defense a false read, and the offensive line can block opposite as well. This slows down the linebackers and confuses the defenders in the box.

Running back screen. These are great to slow down the rush as they help with the protection, sometimes as much as keeping your back in protection. The sales job starts with the offensive line, then it is up to the running back to get to his spot knowing when it is time to look back for the ball, this is a timing thing that will get worked out in practicing the paly.

Tunnel screen. Receivers run toward the football behind the line of scrimmage, allowing offensive linemen to get downfield with the football behind them. (This is a slow developing play with the quarterback expected to draws the pass rush toward him.

Tight end screen. A slow screen designed for the tight end to find a soft spot to catch the football and get upfield. The quarterback will look to draw the rush, allowing receivers to get deep fast.

Draw play

Draws from one-back sets tend to be a slower moving running play but does allow the defense s to rush upfield in order to help created running lanes. You also can run a quarterback draw with a lead blocker, establishing the lead draw.

Empty is a great set for quarterback draw, especially if you catch the defense in man coverage.


Reversing the ball helps an offense do manythings:

  • Slow down pursuit
  • Take advantage of fast and aggressive defenses
  • Big play potential

The reverse works best against the better defense teams. The faster that they run to the football, the more likely that defenders will overpursue the action, leaving the reverse to be defended sometimes by one defender.

Receivers love the reverse as it allows them to show off their skills without catching a pass. The key is getting the reverse player deep enough to get around the edge, so their aiming points should be two or three yards behind the deepest back in the backfield.

The double reverse takes some time to develop and will take some work on install. Don’t overcoach it, and make it part of your package, even if only for a fun play to have in the package.

The fake reverse also helps hold defenders and should be part of your plan.

Additional explosives plays – including a shovel pass – can also be part of your package. This allows a receiver, often a running back, to slip under the defensive line, into an open area, receiving easy toss from the quarterback.

Toss pass. A forward pass to a motion running teammate. It is a soft forward toss with some ark so the receiver can run under and catch it easily. It looks like jet sweep with an option to throw the ball at the receiver’s feet if the play does not develop appropriately.


The basics of motion is within the play call. The call designates who will to be in motion and will designate what type of motion wanted, but the quarterback controls the final destination with the snap count.

It is vital to the offense that the receivers and running backs have motions calls. Motion is the second part of how a team will align before you want the ball snapped.

Use motion in your offense for specific, defined purposes, some of which include:

  • To disguise our intentions/delay defensive recognition
  • To gain a blocker at the point of attack
  • To create personnel advantages
  • To force the pass coverage to declare man or zone
  • To create coverage problems or checks
  • To force the coverage to bump, changing personnel and alignment
  • To help circumvent the jam

Uncovered receivers rule

  • Sound defenses cover all receivers, but sometimes they make mistakes, especially when motion comes into play
  • Work to throw to any uncovered receiver created by alignment or motion
  • If we fail to force the defense to cover-up our receivers it allows them to put an extra man in the box to defend the run and become an extra rusher vs. our passing game
  • The Quarterback and the uncovered will tap helmet to establish both on the same page and be waiting for the tap back to signal get the ball snap and to him quickly before the defensive can adjust

 Coaching points

  • Screen are him balls as throw the ball to him but can be used as decoys after they appear on tape.
  • Add specials plays into your group work.
  • It slows down the rush.
  • Low risk plays with high rewards

Ray Gregory has been the slot backs coach at Bethune-Cookman University since 2008. With more than two decades of experience, he also has coached at Southern Utah, Millsaps, Hines (Miss.), Georgia Southern, Hawaii, Itawamba and Buffalo. Three of his teams won NCAA rushing titles while running his renowned option offensive system. Check out his books here.