I want to thank hokiepro for giving me a great lead-in to this article. A little while back he asked me this question on the Subscribers board:
Explain why the wide receiver and flanker screens aren’t dumb plays but rather important parts of the offense to stretch the field horizontally so eventually you can go vertical.
And wouldn’t you know it, judicious screen play concepts were a big reason why Tech won this game. But before we review the reverse-the-curse game at FedEx, here’s how I was planning on answering hokiepro:
Defenses have an advantage over the offensive passing game in that they can array in depth prior to the snap. For example, they can align far away from the line of scrimmage, which generally helps them better defend deeper passes. Of course, if they choose to align in this manner, then it’s a given they’re also making it easier to throw underneath. Not since the Vick years has Tech really been able to challenge people vertically at will, and that wasn’t due so much to coaching smarts as it was to incredible player athleticism. So the best way for most teams (recent iterations of Tech included) to punish these deep-positioned defenses is with the short passing game, which includes screens.
Defenses also have an advantage in that they’re freer to arrange horizontally, in that they can crowd around the ball, spread out along the line of scrimmage, or cluster at the ends. If a defense is packing the box while also playing soft coverage, the easiest theoretical yardage for the offense is in the edge screen game. Leaning on some screen passes or quick hitches will likely pull the secondary defenders down (making deep throws easier) or get the linebackers out...
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