Show some Constraint: The Bubble Screen

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

(Editor's Note: Check out this brilliant work our fellow BGNer Ben, aka Midnight_Green_Lantern, has done. You can follow him on Twitter as well @100andBenPercnt)

I want to take an in-depth look at one of Chip's favorite plays at Oregon: The Bubble Screen.

This post will consist of 3 parts:
1) What is the bubble screen?
2) What was it's role in the offense?
3) Why I think it will work for the Eagles.

Part I: What is the bubble screen?

The bubble screen is a play designed to get the ball in the hands of a playmaking WR, behind the line of scrimmage, where he has other recievers on that side as blockers in front of him. It challenges the perimeter of the field and the integrity of the defenses' alignment (more on that in Part 2).



It can be run out of various Shotgun formations, but above is one Oregon commonly used to run the play out of. This also shows the basic responsibilities of each player for the play.

Here is a video of Oregon's use of the bubble screen against Stanford.
(Note: Not all of the screens you see in this video are technically bubble screens, but you'll get the gist.)

Part II: What is the role of the bubble screen in the scheme/offense?

The Bubble screen is what as know as a "constraint play". To explain what a constraint play is I'm going to use some help from Smart Football's take on constraint plays. The entire article is a must-read, but here are a few excerpts that explain.

"The idea is that you have certain plays that always work on the whiteboard against the defense you
hope to see — the pass play that always works against Cover 3, the run play that works against the 4-3 under with out the linebackers cheating inside. Yes, it is what works on paper. But we don’t live in a perfect world: the "constraint" plays are designed to make sure you live in one that is as close as possible to the world you want, the world on the whiteboard."

"Constraint plays thus work on defenders who cheat. For example, the safety might get tired of watching you break big runs up the middle, so he begins to cheat up. Now you call play-action and make him pay for his impatience. The outside linebackers cheat in for the same reason; to stop the run. Now you throw the bubble screen, run the bootleg passes to the flat, and make them pay for their impatience. Now the defensive ends begin rushing hard upfield; you trap, draw, and screen them to make them pay for getting out of position. If that defensive end played honest your tackle could block him; if he flies upfield he cannot. Constraint plays make them get back to basics. Once they get back to playing honest football, you go back to the whiteboard and beat them with your bread and butter."

"Designing an offense is all about structure. Constraint plays, like the bubble, work when the defense gives you the play by their structure; same for play-action passes over the top. When I say these are defensive cheats, I mean they aren’t the base, whiteboard defenses you expect, because defenses — both players and coaches — adjust to take away what you do well. But you want to go to your core stuff, so you build your offense off of that, and each constraint play forces the defense back in line, right where you want them. That’s the beauty of football: punch, counterpunch."

Part III: Why I think the bubble screen can work for the Eagles

This is a play I very much believe Chip will carry over from the Oregon offense to the Eagles. It is a great play to use against a defense selling out to stop the run. As long as the Eagles field as stout of a running game as we all expect, this play will be an effective one. Just watch how effectively Chip used it to punish a defense "cheating" to stop Oregon's running game in this FishDuck video:

I also like the Eagles personnel for the bubble screen, especially with the added emphasis on WR blocking. This play requires having WRs capable of two things: blocking and making things happen with the ball in their hands. The Eagles have both.

DJax's speed would make him a threat to take it to the house anytime he would get the ball on this play. Maclin, while recently allergic to contact, has good speed and excelled as a RAC receiver in college. I would consider Avant and Cooper above-average blockers.

But my two wild-card players for this specific play are Arrelious Benn and Damaris Johnson. Benn has RAC ability with his power, but it's his blocking in this situation that really excites me. He can absolutely bully cornerbacks. And, with his skillset, getting Johnson in the open field with good blocking could be electrifying.

The bubble screen was a play I loved watching Oregon run, and I hope to see it run with similar success this season with our Eagles.

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