One of the new trends in the NFL is the double screen, which we've seen more of this season. The play advances screen concepts and taps into other trends like giving the quarterback more options before or after the snap, and offenses attacking the perimeter.
On the double screen, linemen pull left and right and there are options to each side. The quarterback chooses which side to go to based on numbers, either before or after the snap.
On a double screen by the Dolphins in Week 2, the Colts' cornerback to Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill's left played press coverage, while the cornerback to Tannehill's right played off of Mike Wallace. Based on that, Tannehill decided before the snap to go to the right.
The play resulted in an 18-yard touchdown. More than likely, if the cornerback on Wallace had pressed, the play would have been automatically converted to a fade route. Running back Lamar Miller, who motioned from the right, was the screen option to the left. Here's a view of the double screen action from two angles:
The way the NFL was for years – and I think it stemmed from Vince Lombardi – was that offense was always about synchronized execution. Defense was about disruption and deception. Now I think the game has evolved to where offense has become much more about deception. It doesn’t mean teams don’t line up and run "power" anymore, but this has been an expansion as new ideas have evolved and developed. You still have to execute, but it's about deceiving and creating conflict for defenders in their assignments.
A different type of effective play off of screen action came on the first series of Atlanta's game against St. Louis in Week 2. It’s a great example of what teams do off of screen concepts to confuse defenses. Since Dirk Koetter became the Falcons' offensive coordinator before last season, they have been a very good wide receiver screen team. He has built off that.
One play off the receiver screen is to have the outside receiver pop out like it's a screen, and the inside receiver slow plays it as if he's blocking. Then the inside receiver runs up the sideline when the cornerback steps up to play the screen.
Knowing the Rams had prepared for this, the Falcons had a wrinkle for it. Julio Jones stepped back as if it was a screen, Harry Douglas started outside as if he would block or continue up the sideline. But then Douglas planted and cut back at sharp angle to inside. Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan is looking for both the screen and for Douglas to stay outside. Douglas plants and cuts and Finnegan is paralyzed. Matt Ryan hits Douglas for 20 yards. It’s a great concept, an expansion of the screen play.
These plays are examples of ways to spread the field horizontally, which is what the college game is about.
The pro game has typically been played in the middle of the field between the hashmarks, but I think staffs are finding ways to play on the perimeter a bit as college concepts find their way into the pro game. The question becomes, how far can you take this? In college you can make playing on the perimeter your entire offense. I’m not sure you can do that in the NFL.
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NFL analyst and NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell watches as much NFL game film as anyone. Throughout the season, Cosell will join Shutdown Corner to share his observations on the teams, schemes and personnel from around the league.