Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
It's been a popular question from the Titans' faithful, who look at the offense's struggles and Chris Johnson's potential in space: Why don't they throw more screens?
The easy answer is that the Titans aren't a screen team and while Johnson outside in space is an appealing prospect, they aren't very good at setting up opportunities.
Screen teams work hard at it, really drill it. The Titans use screens more as a supplement to what they do, which makes them less likely to work.
Center Kevin Mawae said at times with the Jets they were so much of a screen team they had periods in regular-season practices devoted exclusively to the short passes. The Titans do not.
Mike Heimerdinger told me he's got three or four screen passes he likes most weeks. Some games he goes to them, some games he doesn't.
One to Nate Washington didn't pan out in last week's loss in Jacksonville and the coordinator abandoned the idea.
“I didn't feel last week that the inside screens were the place to go,” Heimerdinger said. “We screwed up the one outside and I just junked them. You've got to be patient with screens and they are good or horse----, and I am not a patient person.”
Quarterback Kerry Collins said a screen pass is obviously simple for him, but all the moving parts make a short pass a lot more difficult than they seem.
“We'll have them every week, we'll keep trying to mix them in,” he said. “For me it's not that hard. For everybody else? The backs got to find his way through there good, a lot of times you've got to disguise it so defensive linemen aren't grabbing the running back and things like that. But yeah, I would expect we'll probably do a little bit more of that.”
The Titans have some mobile offensive linemen, but screen work hasn't been a big strength. Mawae said the Titans haven't been a good screen team yet this year and that since he joined the team in 2006 they've been “decent.”
“Screens are kind of hit and miss kind of plays,” he said. “It's not a huge part of our offense. It's definitely something that's there that we want to take advantage of when the situation arises…
“There is a lot that goes into it that a lot of people don't realize,” he said. “If you've got man coverage, you've got to think about jumping the linebacker a little bit sooner, zone coverage you think about going outside but you've still got to dip inside just in case. There is a whole lot of variables.”
I can appreciate that Tennessee's not a screen team and believe me, I understand Heimerdinger's impatience.
But the Titans need to be able to run their handful of screens more effectively to help mix things up and create room for players like Johnson and Washington.