QBs and the Screen Game, 2014

Steve Palazzolo breaks down the impact of screen passes on 2014 QB numbers.

| 2 years ago

QBs and the Screen Game, 2014

Screen-GameAfter last season, we took a look at quarterbacks and the screen game, showing which QBs benefitted most from “free” yards that result in putting the ball in playmakers’ hands in space. As we mentioned in the previous article, screen game success has little to do with the quarterback and much more to do with the receiver/running back, play call timing, blocking, and opposing defense. As always with PFF grading, the result of the play will not affect the quarterback’s grade, once the ball leaves his hand, we evaluate the throw and the rest is up to his teammates.

So, for instance, a screen that goes for an 80-yard touchdown will likely earn the same grade for the quarterback as one that goes for a 2-yard loss, though we know how much plays like this skew the boxscore and perception of a quarterback’s performance. We’ve heard that the screen game is used as an “extension of the running game,” and that’s often what it is, though quarterback numbers are still altered by their success or failure.  That’s not to say that having success on screens is a bad thing, just that the resulting stats need to be kept in context.

With that in mind, here’s a look at how quarterbacks used the screen game in 2014.

All Screens

screens overall


 Matt Ryan benefitted from a healthy Julio Jones who picked up the third-most yards on wide receiver screens in the league.
–  Ryan tied with Alex Smith to lead the league with five touchdowns on screen passes.
 Redskins QB Kirk Cousins led the league with 11.0 yards/attempt on screens while teammate Robert Griffin III ranked third at 8.6.
 On the other end of the spectrum is Titans quarterbacks Jake Locker and Charlie Whitehurst who averaged 3.7 and 1.7 yards/attempt respectively.
 Blake Bortles led the league with 61 completions on screens.

WR Screens 

screens WR

 Peyton Manning once again picked up the majority of his screen yards to wide receivers as Demaryius Thomas ranked seventh among wide receivers with 152 yards.
 Manning led the league with 48 completions on wide receiver screens with Ben Roethlisberger ranking second with 36.
 Teddy Bridgewater ranked fourth in wide receiver screen yards with 87 of them coming on a game-winning screen to Jarius Wright in Week 14. Wright led all wide receivers with 203 yards on screens.
 Robert Griffin III picked up 12 percent of his total passing yards on wide receiver screens alone while Nick Foles ranked second in this department at 10.3 percent.

RB Screens

screens RB

 The top two return in tact as Matthew Stafford and Drew Brees led the league in running back screen yards last year as well.
 Brees led the league with 40 completions on running back screens.
 J. Manuel picked up 11.1 percent of his total passing yards on running back screens, the highest percentage in the league.
 Aaron Rodgers averaged 13.4 yards/attempt on his 14 screen attempts.


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| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

  • Jason Williams

    surprised cutler’s number is not higher since forte broke the receptions record.

    • Bear Down in Tampa

      A lot of Forte’s stuff was on actual routes, not screens.

  • gllmiaspr

    I am confused by an apparent discrepancy between the data published here and what is in the Premium Stats.
    For example if you look at cum passes by direction for the season for Ryan Tannehill for minus yards you find:
    Left 23 att, 23 completions, 162 yds, middle 41 att, 35 completions, 145 yds, right 22 att, 21 completions, 126 yds.
    Total: 86 Attempts, 79 comp, 433 yards.
    The data published for Tannehill here shows 48 attempts, 43 completions 220 yards.
    I thought a screen pass was defined as a pass completed behind the line of scrimmage. Obviously you are not counting all minus passes.
    Can you comment?

    • DRH

      Best guess (as a non staff member).

      Per Wiki
      “A screen pass is a play in gridiron football consisting of a short pass to a receiver who is protected by a screen of blockers.”

      The apparent discrepancy is probably from the not having lead blockers, even though the receiver/back is behind the line of scrimmage.

      I’m assuming that means Ryan threw 38 passes that were loops, swings, shovels, “pooch passes”, or attempts to a receiver on scramble drills and managed to complete 36 of such passes.

      I’m sure intentional grounding plays a part in a small percentage of these subsets.

      Another possibility is they may have charted “aimed passes”, ignoring the times where the running back was covered and Ryan threw it into the ground instead of risking the interception or tip drill.

      Or maybe the Premium stats include laterals within the passing stats?

      Hopefully a staff member will answer the question more correctly, but at least now you have some possibilities as to “why” to hold you over till then.

      • gllmiaspr


  • SeattleSteve

    33 of 36 and The Packers don’t call for more screen passes?
    Then again, don’t do it often probably means it pays off way more when they do do it.

    • Brian Dugan

      I often have the same back and forth with the Packers screen game.

  • davathon

    So Cutler is actually even worse at QB than he seems?

  • formerexpat

    I wonder what these stats would look like if you eliminated third down and forever plays. So many times the defense gives up lots of yards in soft coverage but without any real impact.

  • LightsOut85

    A little late, but, does this include post-season?