Alex Merrill Asks: Back in the day (early 2000's) the Patriots, with players like Patrick Pass in particular, were great in the screen game. Why have they strayed from their copious amount of screen plays? Is it a combination of faster/smarter linebackers? The screen game always seemed like a great pass rush buster...
Great question, Alex. There are probably a number of factors involved in fazing out of the screen. I think personnel can be cited as the main reason though.
Randy Moss is certainly partially to blame. When New England first got a hold of both Moss and Wes Welker in 2007, the screen play was a staple of the offense.
But Randy made it nearly impossible to run effectively or safely. He generally would half-heartedly engage his defender and barely block. At some point you're putting your player's health at risk when their own teammates aren't looking out for them.
The team also had a great cast of athletic offensive lineman who could get down field in a hurry to do some damage. The majority of those lineman have come and gone now.
I'd like to see more screens run and I think there are a number of younger, athletic lineman on the roster again to help.
You don't want to rely on that type of gimmicky pass though, which might have played a role in the team turning away from it. Josh McDaniels' four-year vacancy could have played a part too.
Lots of factors with regards to the evolution of the playbook for sure.