Black and Gold X's and O's | Identifying Concepts: The Swing Screen

Will Osgood@@BRwillosgoodAnalyst IJune 22, 2009

NEW ORLEANS - SEPTEMBER 28:  Reggie Bush #25 of the New Orleans Saints is tackled by Walt Harris #27 of the San Francisco 49ers on September 28, 2008 at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

For the next eight weeks, I will write one column a week regarding different concepts the Saints will use either on offense or in defensive packages in 2009.

Today's version talks about the intricacies of the Swing Screen.

If you hear Jim Henderson yell something to the extent of "He's at the 10, the five, touchdown Saints, Reggie Bush!", there's a fair chance that such a call came is a result of Bush catching the ball in space with a lead blocker in front of him.

I say that because, through three full seasons in the NFL, about a quarter of Reggie's touchdowns or big plays have come off the swing screen.

It is such a great play for a number of reasons.

One of the most important of these is simply the concept of putting the ball in the hands of your most explosive player.

Other reasons include the notion that you have one of the best right tackles in all of football in Jon Stinchcomb as his lead blocker.

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Finally, Sean Payton does such a good job of disguising the play by using multiple personnel groupings and formations.

It should also be noted that occasionally Payton will call 52 H Wheel, which is not a screen but a slant clear out by the outside receiver(s) on the side of the wheel (swing route).

This has the same effect as a screen because it pulls the coverage inside, freeing space for Bush to be one-on-one with a defender on the outside.

But specifically, the Swing Screen is not so much of a passing play as it is a screen. That means the lineman have different techniques they use.

Additionally, the quarterback knows he is throwing the swing no matter what.

Here are some of the key elements of the swing screen, in order to execute it well:

When the quarterback lines up under center, he must read the defense and check for a blitz.

If one is coming, he must determine where the strength of the rush will be.

He must then organize his blocking unit in order to pick up the blitz, but also to use the defense's aggressiveness against them.

For instance, imagine the swing screen is called to the right (as it is most of the time). And, let's assume the blitz is coming from that same side.

This may sound dangerous, but is actually the optimal location of a blitz.

The reason is that Drew Brees can suck defenders toward him and then simply lob the ball over their heads. Generally, there are fewer defenders behind the blitzers.

This gives Reggie a LOT of space.

The right tackle must be a good athlete. Generally, he will delay with a pass drop for a second or two, and then wheel around to go find a defender to take out.

If the call is H Swing Screen, that would indicate there is either a fullback or extra tight end in the game. Generally, they would be added to the swing element of the blocking pattern.

This gives Reggie two lead blockers.

A key coaching point for this play to be successful is for Reggie to be patient in the swing element of his route. He needs to delay about a quarter of a second at the snap of the ball.

He must then run straight to the sideline for three steps.

Only after three steps may he begin to angle upfield. By that point, Drew should be about ready to throw him the ball. Staying straight and then angling helps Drew throw to a spot, and gives Reggie the opportunity to catch the ball in stride and get upfield.

From a purely personnel and formation standpoint, this play excels because of the versatility of all the other players on the offense.

The fact that Billy Miller can be a lead blocker on this play gives them the ability to run the swing from a two-tight end set. Heath Evans' ability as a lead blocker makes this is a viable play with Reggie as the H-Back.

In three receiver sets, this play can still be run either to the tight end's side or away from him. All it takes is having the receiver(s) clearing out and using Stinchcomb as the lead blocker.

This is effective because it takes some defenders out of Reggie's area, and allows Stinchcomb to focus on blocking a linebacker or safety.

Overall, the Saints are blessed to have a player like Reggie Bush who creates tremendous matchup problems.

If teams overplay for the swing, many other viable options become open possibilities. The swing screen has been very effective in the past for the Saints' offense.

And there's really no reason for that to end this season.

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