QBs in Focus: Screens

Checking in on the screen game, Steve Palazzolo looks at which QBs utilized it most often and which benefitted most the "easy" screen yards.

| 3 years ago

QBs in Focus: Screens

qb-month-screensThough we certainly miss football during the offseason, it’s always a good time to take a step back and analyze our plethora of data.

We’re often so busy grading and collecting data during the season that we’re unable to put a lot of the information to good use. With that said, we’ve decided to declare June as “QB Month” as we break down NFL quarterbacks every which way.

We’re going to examine quarterbacks from a number of situations before looking at each of them individually. The grades and numbers should reveal each quarterback’s strengths and weaknesses from the 2013 season.

As we go through this series, it’s important to understand the relationship between QB Rating (NFL’s version) and PFF Grade.

While QB Rating is obviously supposed to be a QB statistic, it’s actually a better gauge of what the entire offense did in a given situation. This is the type of information that is actually extremely valuable to our NFL team customers as their game planning efforts must go towards stopping an entire passing offense, not just the quarterback.

 If the quarterback throws an easy dump off pass to the RB who then weaves through the defense for the touchdown, it’s certainly not a great indicator of quarterbacking skill as it is the running back and defense accounting for the majority of the work on the play. Of course the QB Rating will look quite shiny in that situation.

On the other hand, PFF Grade is a good indicator of how well the quarterback actually performed in a given situation. Whether they throw an accurate pass that was dropped, or perhaps an inaccurate one that should have been intercepted and the defense dropped, the PFF grade will account for those situations with a positive and a negative grade respectively while QB Rating will simply reflect the 0-for-1 passing.

It’s important to distinguish between QB Rating and PFF grade, though there’s a good chance they’ll match up in most situations.


The screen game is an important part of NFL offenses and often an efficient way of moving the ball against the right defensive call. As for the quarterbacks, mastering the screen is certainly something that takes time, but it’s a skill we expect an NFL quarterback to be able to execute. It’s for this reason that the grades are relatively low and they may match up with the stats even less than some of the other situations we’ve covered.

Total yardage, namely yards after the catch, are much more a function of the receiver, his blocking, the defense, and the defensive play call, rather than anything special the quarterback has done to execute the play.

Important Note: Grades for this section have been re-normalized for each individual category. This process essentially makes the league average a 0.0, and ensures that all quarterbacks are graded equally along this scale.


WR/TE Screens

WR_TE Screens Re-Norm

WR_TE Screens Re-Norm (2)

•  Peyton Manning led the league in both QB Rating (130.0) and total yards (406) from WR screens.

•  Ben Roethlisberger led the league with 61 wide receiver screens, but Chad Henne had the highest percentage of his dropbacks go to wide receiver screens at 11.5%.

•  Six quarterbacks threw wide receiver screens on less than two percent of their dropbacks, including Drew Brees, Joe Flacco, Brandon Weeden, E.J. Manuel, Kellen Clemens, and Mike Glennon.


RB Screens

RB Screens Re-Norm

RB Screens Re-Norm (2)

•  Brees led the league with 46 running back screens.

•  Peyton Manning ranked third in QB Rating on RB screens at 142.8.

•  Alex Smith’s 314 running back screen yards came in right behind Brees’ 315, despite 12 fewer attempts.

•  Matt Flynn had the highest percentage of his drop-backs go to RB screens at 7.7%.

•  Five quarterbacks threw running back screens on less than 2% of their drop-backs including Robert Griffin, Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel, Colin Kaepernick, and Carson Palmer.



Non-Screens Re-Norm

Non-Screens Re-Norm (2)

•  The non-screen list is a good way to separate the passers from the “easy” screen yardage they accumulate throughout the season.


For the entire set of “QBs in Focus” posts, click here.


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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.

  • Carl

    I didnt see Colin Kaep on the RB screen list. I mean, did he even throw one? Doesnt seem like it.

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