The foundation to the Redskins offense is laid by the run game. If the Redskins can run the ball, they can built their play-action, option and passing game off of it and be extremely hard to stop. But this is no secret, everyone knows that with Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris, the Redskins want to run the ball and use up as much time on the clock as possible. Defenses typically respond to the run-heavy offense by bringing down a safety to join as the eighth man in the box. With so many defenders in the box, it can be hard to run the ball between the tackles. That’s where the screen game comes in.
The Redskins have screen pass options built in to almost every run play that has two receivers lined up on the same side of the field. When a defense plays a little too heavy against the run, Griffin can pull the ball and throw the quick screen. We saw plenty of examples of that this season. In fact, against the Saints in week one, most of the opening drive was made up of bubble screens.
Here the Saints don’t actually have an eighth man in the box, but aren’t respecting the threat of the pass. The Will (weakside) backer isn’t lined up over Pierre Garcon in the slot, instead edging inside to help support the run. Griffin reads this pre-snap and fakes the hand off to Morris before throwing the screen. Trent Williams breaks off from the line and blocks the Will backer, while Niles Paul blocks the corner on the outside. That leaves Garcon with space to run into and he’s able to pick up a first down.
Against the Vikings, the Redskins had a screen option thrown on the back off a run/pass option play.
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There’s two main reads for Griffin on this play, the first being pre-snap. He reads how the defense lines up, and if they are too heavy on the run, then once again Griffin will pull the ball and throw the screen. On this occasion, the Vikings are playing man coverage and respecting both the run and pass threat. That leads Griffin to his second read of the Will backer, who bites down on the run, allowing Griffin to pull the ball and throw the slant to Davis. Had the Will backer dropped into coverage, the Vikings would have been left with just five defenders against the offensive line and Morris.
This final screen is a variation on a play I’m expecting to see more of this season.
This is a read-option play that allows Griffin to throw the screen instead of running himself. The edge defender in yellow is being read by Griffin. He crashes on the run, allowing the tight end a free run to the strong safety lined up over Joshua Morgan. Morgan drops back and secures the screen pass before turning up field and picking up the first down. Had the edge defender stayed put, just like on any read-option play, Griffin hands the ball off to Morris.
That’s the kind of situation the screen game can put a team in. You have to respect the threat of it, but to do that you have to spread out and cover sideline to sideline, sacrificing a run defender in the box for a cover defender on the outside. That leaves you more vulnerable to the run, which you can’t afford to be against Griffin and Morris. It’s all about playing the numbers game, and the screen game allows you to win that numbers game more often.