Rather than deep shots from quarterback Alex Smith, Chiefs fans were treated to screen after screen in the second 11-on-11 session of training camp.
Coach Andy Reid ran nine of them consecutively in the “screen period” of practice, and several more throughout practice. Even without the team’s top two running backs — Jamaal Charles and Spencer Ware — Reid clearly emphasized the play on the first day of practice.
And though the short, quick dump-offs look easy, they’re an essential piece of Reid’s West Coast offense that he said the team needs to improve on, especially inside screens, which Reid said come four yards outside the tackles or less.
“We can get better at that,” Reid said. “I need to teach (inside screens) better, up front. I need to get out there and do a better job of it.”
By its nature, the screen is one of the biggest boom-or-bust plays in the NFL.
As Smith described it, it’s a play where a running back or a receiver can dazzle in space. On the other end of the spectrum, the quarterback can succumb to too much pressure, the play can be snuffed out, and the ball falls to the grass behind the line of scrimmage.
“A lot of timing, a lot of moving parts with lineman running out, running back getting out, QBs completing the pass, then setting it all up,” Smith said. “We've got great backs that are awesome in open space, so it's certainly something you want to have in your toolbox.”
On a day of camp where it’s usually bombs away for the “oohs” and “ahhs” of the fans, Reid opted to try to improve a part of the Chiefs’ game that looks so much easier than the deep ball, but is ultimately more difficult.
“I don’t think it’s as easy as people think,” receiver Jeremy Maclin said. “This is the National Football League.”