Various recent posts, especially since the acquisition of Spiller, have mentioned utilizing Bills running backs on screens to help slow down opposing pass rushes. This sounds like a wise football 101 tactic given the Bills RB talent and the strong probability their O line will not be a team strength this season.
So we have it figured out, one key to offensive success is an effective screen game. In theory it seems simple. Transitioning from theory to reality seems much more difficult. First off, the screen game is dependent upon the line and RB selling pass protection in order to draw the D line, and hopefully blitzing LBs towards the QB. The lineman then have to be athletic enough to bleed out and make their blocks for the RB (receiver).
I believe the Bills O line has the innate athleticism and brains to run an efficient screen game. Bell (assuming he is healthy) and Levitre move very well for O lineman. Wood (again, assuming he is healthy) and Hang have at least average quickness and speed for O lineman. And our RT will likely have average mobility (Green, Meredith,etc.). They should also have the brains to run the screen game. What the line lacks is cohesion and experience. If Chan pounds the screen game into their minds over and over this is a group that should be able to do their part in allowing the Bills to take advantage of getting their backs into the flats with a couple of blockers out front to help clear the path.
I have no concern regarding our RBs ability to effectively fulfill their responsibilities in the screen game.
My real concern is centered on throwing the screen pass. One might think the screen pass is a very easy pass to execute. After all we are only talking about a 7-12 yard pass, right? However, years of observation tells me the screen pass is mastered by relatively few QBs. Jim Kelly threw a great screen pass, Brett Favre is a fantastic screen passer, Steve young - great. All of those QBs had a "feel" for the game, and sensed where their receiver and linemen would be before they turned to deliver the ball. They executed the screen game like a savvy point guard driving the lane and dishing off a no look pass for an easy layup. They had the athleticism and "feel" to deliver the ball from different arm angles and on different trajectories based on where the DE or OLB was in relation to the QB and the RB (receiver). At times they would drop the ball over the DE, and at others they might throw it under his armpit. They had the confidence to wait that extra fraction of a second to make the DL commit to the pass rush - even when they saw the RB leak out into the flat. They could improvise like a 45 year old basketball player that can no longer run and jump but can still get to the rim and score in the paint over the 20 year olds - they just get it done.
Do the Bills have a QB that can set up and throw the screen?
I do not believe Trent will ever excel at throwing the screen for one main reason, Trent is not a "feel" player. Trent appears rather mechanical in his delivery, albeit a pretty delivery. When Trent has perfect protection and a 3 yard deep packet to step up into his delivery and mechanics look great. However, it seems Trent needs his mechanics to be great to make an accurate pass. Trent reminds me of a jump shooter that needs 3 screens to get his shot off, but is unable to get a shot by himself. He does not seem to have the confidence to casually hold the ball for an extra fraction of a second, seemingly unaware of the closing D linemen. Trent looks nervous dropping back for the screen (I know -bad O line. I might be nervous as well). He also has failed to show the "feel" for the screen or the ability to deliver the ball from different arm angles to avoid rushing D lineman. Plus, it often seems like it takes Trent 2 seconds to turn........step. ...pat the ball.... and trow the ball to the open RB. All too often Trent's timing is off just enough to rob the play of a chance for success. Bottom line, I don't believe Trent will ever be a "feel" player. He seems to be a mechanical, by the book player.
On the other hand Fitzy strikes me as a "feel" player. Fitzy is the player you choose playing park ball, because he can drive and dish with no set plays. He has a sense of proper spacing and exudes a cool confidence that says he's in control. He is willing and able to draw the D line in closer and has the athletic ability to deliver the ball from different arm angles. He is the antithesis of Trent. Fitzy's lack of mechanical consistency hurts his down field passing game, but gives him the confidence to deliver the ball in many different manners in the screen game. The one problem with Fitzy is unfortunately significant. His accuracy is atrocious. It is not often that Fitzy delivers a screen that the receiver does not have to adjust to. That inability to deliver an accurate pass severely limits the chances of a successful play as the receiver then needs to gather himself to proceed up field, giving defenders time to make the play.
Brohm appears to have the feel and accuracy required to be an effective screen passer. He "looks" good delivering the ball and appears poised under pressure. I just wonder if Brohm has the smarts and confidence for the game. He looks like he is heavily medicated during his interviews...or a bit too scared and nervous, I just can't tell. But he does not exude confidence to me.
I have only watched Brown play in one bowl game and the recent rookie minicamp. That limited amount of viewing coupled with recent interviews tells me the following. The kid is smart, and he carries himself well. He throws a nice ball and has surprising zip on his passes. He strikes me as a "feel" player who can create a bit when the play breaks down. He is either confident or a great Bull Sh*tter, which i'd settle for. Leaders need to either be confident or appear confident, even when they are crying for momma on the inside. I hope the kid can play because I really like his attitude.
He has shown the ability to throw from different arm angles and appears athletic enough to be able to deliver the screen pass without needing his normal delivery.
The screen game will only succeed if the pieces fit together and run like a well oiled machine. I am confident the O line can do it's part. I am very confident the RBs can do there part, I am not confident that our QBs can perform their responsibilities.