Change Your Thinking on Defending Screen Plays
Defending screen passes is tough. Good offensive coordinators are setting you up all game long to hit a big screen play. It’s a great way for them to get an athlete in space who’s hard to bring down, too.
The secret to defending screen passes starts with removing that word. Stop thinking about a screen pass as a pass.
Screen plays are an extension of the run game. They are used as a constraint play for the passing game. Specifically, screen plays are a constraint against your aggressive pass rush.
Once you change that thinking, your screen pass defense becomes a little more clear. You’re not thinking about coverage anymore.
Defending screens is about getting back to your run fits. And you’ll really need to focus on the part of your defense that is being attacked – the defensive line.
Run Fits for Screen Pass Defense
How you fit a screen goes back to your run fits. For JDFB Coaching Systems coaches, that means you need to get back to the Umbrella Principle.
Force players are still going to force the play. Even on fast perimeter screens where the force player gets out-leveraged immediately, you still play it the same. The sideline becomes the force defender.
The real key comes in how you fit with your spill and alley defenders. Screen passes create a vertical seam in your run defense. Sometimes it is a huge vertical seam.
Coaching the linebackers to react and come up to defend the screen play is where most coaches focus their time and effort. It’s a good start, and definitely necessary. They need to recognize the screen, then come up and rip through the linemen releasing for screen blocking.
The part many defensive coaches miss is the most important part, though. Not only are the Linebackers dropping off to create that vertical seam. The Defensive Linemen are invited up the field to create a massive vertical seam.
Coaching Screen Retrace
This is the big one. Your best defense against screen plays is recognition. But not Linebacker recognition.
The best defense against screen passes is recognition by the Defensive Line. They are not being blocked! So if they recognize the play, they have free run to get to the ball carrier.
Part of our Key Read Drills for Defensive Linemen in all JDFB Coaching Systems defenses is the Screen Retrace Drill. It needs to be worked every single day.
The Key Read Drills are also included in the Defensive Drill System, available as part of JDFB Coaching Systems. The drill teaches your defensive linemen to follow the offensive linemen out when they release for screen blocking.
Don’t stop there in your screen pass defense, either. To make sure your Defensive Line will react to screen releases by the offensive linemen, you have to work it in your team practice sessions.
Schedule at least one screen pass in every single team defense scout script you make. It does not matter if your opponent that week runs screens. You need to work it. Be sure to schedule multiple types of screens, too.
Where to Go From Here
It’s time to build up your screen pass defense. That starts with having a good solid foundation of run fits in your defensive system. If you haven’t already, use the player at the top to listen to this episode of The JDFB Quick Clinic or download the show in your podcatcher of choice.
All JDFB Coaching Systems defenses are built on the Umbrella Principle and the Coach Simple, Play Fast, Win philosophy. I’ve worked with coaches all over the United States and around the world to install and win with these coaching systems.
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