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Friday, December 13, 2013
Whatever happened to the screen pass?

By Pat Yasinskas

TAMPA, Fla. -- If you took film of all of Tampa Bay's screen passes this season, you'd have a very short show.

No team has used the screen pass less than the Buccaneers, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Since Mike Glennon took over from Josh Freeman at quarterback in Week 4, the Bucs have attempted precisely 10 screen passes. That's an NFL low. They've completed nine of them for an uninspiring 20 yards.

"You have to take what the defense gives you and it's risk-reward," coach Greg Schiano said. "If we feel like there's an opportunity to take shots where the reward outweighs the risk, then we're going to do that; even though we know that the completion percentage will be less. If we don't feel that, then we're going to take what the defense gives underneath and I think each week that's the challenge because people change up."

There are other reasons why the Bucs haven't been using the screen game. At heart, they're a vertical passing team. Coordinator Mike Sullivan came from the New York Giants, a team that only has attempted 20 screen passes this season. (For perspective, Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger leads the league with 71 screen attempts.)

Then, you have to factor in that the Bucs lost running backs Doug Martin and Mike James to season-ending injuries. Back in training camp, it was obvious that the Bucs were giving Martin a lot of work in the screen game.

Bobby Rainey has stepped in at running back and done a nice job as a rusher. But the Bucs haven't really tried to get him involved in the screen game.