Slip Screen Pressures Cornerbacks

Offense Takes Advantage When Secondary Aligned Deep With Wide Receiver Screen

slip screen pass
Wide receiver Michael Crabtree #15 of the San Francisco 49ers runs with a screen pass against the Buffalo Bills on October 7, 2012 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California. Brian Bahr/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

To better defend the deep passing game, defenses will often align the cornerbacks seven or more yards off of the line of scrimmage, hoping to prevent a big play downfield. This in turn sets up a perfect opportunity for offenses to throw a quick screen pass to the split end.

A screen pass is a play where the quarterback fakes a handoff or long pass, but instead throws a short pass to a receiver who has positioned himself behind a group of blockers. Screen passes are usually utilized against aggressive defenses that blitz often and put pressure on the quarterback. In this situation however, the screen pass is used against a defense that is playing it safe and over-protecting the secondary.

'Hot Potato' Throw

At the snap of the ball, the quarterback takes one-step back from the line of scrimmage, turns toward the split end, and quickly passes the ball.

Split End

(A split end is a receiver who lines up at the line of scrimmage and on the outside of the formation. The split end position is actually the same as the wide receiver position).

After the ball is snapped, the split end takes a quick step forward (no more than six inches), gives a head-fake, takes two steps backward, and turns toward the quarterback. The forward step and head-fake work to make the defense think that the receiver is actually about to run a route downfield. This split second delay created by this fake can be crucial to the play’s success. The receiver must be prepared to catch the ball immediately. Securing the ball, the receiver quickly runs up field.

Short Side Tackle

The tackle pulls toward the receiver, running hard to an area 1-2 yards in front of the receiver to block the charging cornerback. The tackle focus on the defender's midsection as a target.

Down Blocks

The center and two guards take down block steps to the play side. If there are no immediate defenders to block, the linemen turn up field looking for linebackers or secondary players in pursuit of the ball.

Strong Side Tackle, Tight End, Slot Receiver

Once the ball is snapped, the strong side tackle, tight end, and slot receiver all immediately run toward the secondary to block down field for the receiver with the ball.

Fullback, Tailback

The backs act as if the offense is running a regular running play, such as an Isolation or Sweep play, and take steps strong side.  

Read Tackle's Block

After catching the football, the receiver will make a cut down field based on the pulling tackle's block of the cornerback. The receiver must not run too far inside, as he will run into the defensive end or linebacker. With proper blocking, the receiver could make it all the way to the end zone for touchdown.

Coaching Points

  • A receiver with good open field moves may not require the tackle to pull for blocking purposes.
  • Move the receiver a half-yard closer to the end man on the line of scrimmage to cut down the distance of the pass.
  • Instruct the receiver to fall on a dropped pass, as the play may be ruled a lateral by officials, and thus a live football.
  • If the cornerback is moving toward the line of scrimmage prior to the snap, have the quarterback throw the ball out of bounds or fake the throw and follow the center's block down field.