49ers Working To Disguise Screen Pass
July 3 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
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When the screen pass broke through as a regular part of the West Coast Offense, it left defenses scratching their heads. How were they supposed to know the running back was a faking the block so he could swing around and catch a short pass? The play became increasingly more popular (maybe even too popular) as itís success was plentiful.
It didnít take defense that long to adjust the Ďtrickí play though. As teams began to use it, and over use it, defenses were able to recognize that the offensive line blocked slightly differently on such plays. Rather than normal pass blocking, the line would let the defense move them backward, so that the running back would have fewer players to run around. Once the defensive lines momentum was forward, their chances of turning around and catching the Ďscreeningí back was extremely minimal.
Defensive lineman can now smell this play a mile away. They feel the difference in the type of pass block and usually adjust quick enough to stop the screen. Of course it helps that instead of an offense using it once or twice a game, itís become part of the regular play calls.
Offensive gurus have since tried to adjust the screen pass to keep the defense on its toes. On version that has proven quite effective is to use a tight end instead of a running back. In this case, both running backs stay in to block, while the tight end fakes the block and curls for the screen. Still not a very popular offensive play, the tight end screen is quite effective.
Steve Mariucci and his staff spent part of the off-season developing another version of the screen pass. Taking advantage of having to very capable running backs in Garrison Hearst and Kevan Barlow, the coaching staff has already begun implementing the play during the mini-camps.
From a two back, split formation the running back on the right will pick up the left defensive end. While this is happening the left back will roll along the line and turn for the short pass. The difference here is that there is no fake hand off, and the play canít be run from a single back formation. Having the extra running back on the field accomplishes two things: First, defenses think run than pass, rather than pass then run. Second the line will have to pick which running back they want to keep a closer eye on. Given the 49ers set of running backs, this play could be run to either side, and to either back.
The coaching staff hopes the added movement and change in personnel will bring more deception. In having the screening back roll across the line he will likely get lost in traffic more easily, helping to exploit holes in a teamís defense. The 49ers are hoping to open up their offense this season, and having a repertoire of screens to chose from will certainly help them go for the jugular.
Roster moves - the 49ers released WR Brian Haugabrook and S Ontei Jones..
Further - ESPN 2 will air the 49ersí 2001 Yearbook according to their television schedule at espn.com. The current time and day is July 13th at 730 PM EST or 430 PM PST. I is half an hour long.