Read Option Football (Spread Series) – Adding Perimeter Screens

In the previous we have discussed various types of read option plays. In all those plays there were only two options in the play and the read was based on one defender. In this article we are going to take it one step further by adding another option to the play and reading more than one defender. An easy way to add another option to a read option play is to add a perimeter screen.

Common Types of Screens

The most common types of screens added to read option plays are bubble and hitch screens. A bubble screen is a screen pass thrown to the most interior slot receiver. A hitch screen thrown to the wide receiver closest to the sideline. The diagrams below illustrate the bubble and hitch screen out of 2×2 and 3×1.

Bubble and Hitch Screen out of 2×2:

Bubble Screen 3×1:

Hitch Screen 3×1:

Common Formations for Perimeter Screens

There are certain alignments spread offenses will utilize to stress the defense further. Two commonly used formations are the stack and bunch sets. These formations force the defense to declare pre-snap if they are going to commit their apex defenders to the run or the stopping the screen. Below is an example of a perimeter screen from both sets.

Stack alignment:

Bunch Alignment:

The Pre-Snap Read

When running perimeter screens the first read for the QB occurs pre-snap. The QB will do a “slot assessment” to determine the number offensive players vs the number of defensive players. This assessment occurs over the slot in the “alley” area and goes 7 yards deep. If the Offense has one or more players than the defense the QB will execute an “abort throw” and get the ball the screen receiver immediately. It is called an “abort throw” because the QB is “aborting” the run play. However, it is important to note everyone else still executes the run play no one other than the QB will know the abort throw is coming.

Below are some examples of slot assessments:

In this example there are 2 offensive players and only one defensive player in the assessment therefore the screen can be thrown.

In this example there are 2 offensive players and 2 defensive players therefore the screen should NOT be throw as the offense does not have a numbers advantage.

The Post-Snap Read

When doing a slot assessment, if the QB determines the offensive does not have a numbers advantage he will execute the run play. However, there is now another option if the QB ends up keeping the ball and he can throw it to the screen receiver late. This decision is based off reading a second defenders actions. Essentially the play becomes a triple option play.

Here is an example. The QB does a slot assessment but does deems the offense does not have a numbers advantage. Therefore, he runs the read option play. Say the end crashes on the RB and the QB keeps the ball, now he must turn his eyes to the alley defender and read him. If the defender runs to the QB, he throws it to the screen receiver. If the defender runs out to cover the screen receiver the QB keeps the ball instead.

Handoff to RB


QB keep


Throw to Screen


Throwing the Frontside Screen

Screens are usually packaged on the backside of the run play because that is the side the QB will be running if he keeps the ball. However, screens can also be packaged on the front side of a run play as well. The QB will have to do a slot assessment on that side to determine if the offense has a numbers advantage if they do he can abort throw the screen on the front side.

Below are some examples:

Slot assessment on backside = 1v1, slot assessment on front side = 1v0. Therefore front side screen is an option.

Slot assessment on backside = 1v1, slot assessment on front side = 1v1. Therefore, neither backside or front side screen is an option. The run play must be executed.

The Process

With all these options it might seem quite complicated to coach. Which is why, like most things in life, it is best to teach the QB a process to help his decision-making. Which would look something like this:

1) Slot assessment backside and front side. Numbers advantage? If yes, execute abort throw. If no, execute run play.

2) Read EMOL. Does he crash down on the RB? If yes, keep the ball. If no, hand it off to the RB.

3) If ball is kept by QB get eyes on the 2nd read defender immediately. Does he crash down on the QB? If yes, throw the ball to the screen. If no, keep the ball.

Of course not all reads will be crystal clear and many will be hazy but this process should help the QB with his decision making.

If you are interested in further improving your knowledge of screen play concepts to enhance your team’s run game, then a MUST  HAVE coaching resource is Tagging Your Run Game with Perimeter Screens by Steve Sarkisian. This is by far the BEST video detailing the simple rules and benefits of attaching screens to your run plays. By attaching screens to all your run plays, you force the defence to cover the entire field, not just the box or perimeter. The knowledge our coaches gained from this video helped our offense break records (50+ TDs multiple seasons in a row) and dominate every opponent we faced. Every spread offense or read option team should have this coaching video in their football library.

Another coaching resource you should definitely check out is The Air Raid Offense: Run Game and Screen Game. This coaching video is a great resource for coaches looking to implement effective screen game concepts which get the ball to your athletes in space and put defenders in conflict when defending the run. This resource provides several variations to get your RB’s involved in the screen game to take advantage of defences.

Feature image photo credit: acase1968 <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/60035031@N06/15711918214″>2014 NAIA Player of the Year</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>




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