CERTAIN passes reduce your receivers to sitting ducks, and the two main culprits are the “WR Screen” and the “Drag”. To make matters worse, they frequently don’t result in big plays unless the opposing defense really screws something up. Before people start to mention RB Darren Sproles, let me repeat, my issue with the “WR Screen” not the “RB Screen”. These are very different plays both in concept and execution. Now let’s get to it.
Your typical “Drag” route
is great at getting a WR away from the CB following him, since CB’s don’t usually cross the entire field to shadow a receiver. If the QB can lead the WR after he clears the MLB, this route can be money. (Note how I said after.) A few years ago San Diego absolutely gutted us with that route. If a team doesn’t make the correct adjustment (like we didn’t), the “Drag” can be almost indefensible.
The trouble is that a QB is usually trying to get rid of the ball quickly. So if the WR uncovers before (not after) the MLB, the QB will put the ball directly on him, instead of leading him with the ball. That can get the WR blown up by the MLB. More commonly however, what tends to happen is the WR gears down, faces the QB to make the catch, and then gets nailed in the back by Safeties or by a MLB in Tampa Two coverage. (You may recall a number of these type catches made by WR Jordan Matthews under our last head coach.)
To perfectly execute a “WR Screen”
you have to throw the ball to the WR, as a teammate or two gets out in front of the receiver, to set up blocks for him. However, that blocker can’t block before the receiver catches the ball, or it’s a penalty. The receiver also generally doesn’t get to “run” a route. What he does is turns and waits for the ball to get to him. In the meantime no one can block a defender from getting to the receiver…since he doesn’t have the ball yet. Because you know…penalty.
Did I mention that these plays tend to start out behind the line of scrimmage? I didn’t? Well they do. So if the receiver catches the ball and is tackled immediately, it’s usually for a loss of yardage. The best part? The entire time the receiver is waiting for the ball, he’s basically a sitting duck.
While you can YouTube any number of “WR Screens” that became touchdowns, it’s not as easy to find the many, many failed ones. This gives the artificial impression that they have a high success rate in pro football. This would be the opposite of true, and as football fans, you and I know that.
I’m not saying that we should never use “Drag” and “WR Screens”. I’m saying that these plays have too many drawbacks for us to rely on them the way we have been in recent years. We run entirely too many of these routes and they are nowhere as effective for us as they used to be 3-4 years ago. It’s time to let go of these and allow the Offense to progress to the next stage of its evolution.