In the first installment of this series, I looked at differences and similarities between the passing offense Kelly Bryant ran at Clemson and the pass game Derek Dooley used last year at Mizzou, trying to shed light on the change and continuity we might see this season. This analysis was based on a study of four of Bryant’s games at Clemson: The 2017 contests against South Carolina and Virginia Tech, the 2017 BCS Semifinal Sugar Bowl versus Alabama, and 2018’s game against Texas A&M. Today we will use this data to evaluate Clemson’s screen game and to consider the effect Bryant’s dynamic scrambling ability might have on the 2019 Tiger offense.
Screens accounted for almost 20% of the passes Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott called for Bryant. By contrast, last year Dooley dialed up screens at less than half that pace. The great majority of the screens Bryant threw were RB Swing Screen and Jailbreak Screen. Let’s take a look.
The Swing Screen attacks the flat with a Swing route by the RB. In the Clemson version, three linemen release to create a wall.
Bryant completing a Swing Screen against Texas A&M. Watch the left guard open the alley with a great block on the Aggie linebacker.
Dooley’s playbook also carried a Swing Screen, which he broke out on occasion.
The biggest difference here is that the Mizzou linemen cut block the defensive line rather than releasing to set a wall for the RB.
Jailbreak is a wide receiver screen where the receiver jab steps before coming back down the line of scrimmage toward the quarterback. He gets in behind the releasing linemen, trying to find a seam.
A Clemson Jailbreak Screen for an efficient 1st down gain.
Missouri also ran a version of the Jailbreak. Here, Jalen Knox makes a nifty move to shake off the first tackler before coughing up the ball.
It seems clear that the Swing and Jailbreak Screens will remain in the 2019 Mizzou playbook. The only question is whether Dooley will follow his Clemson counterpart’s lead and have Bryant throw a few more per game.
Scrambling and Improvising
Regardless of the plays Dooley calls, perhaps the biggest difference in the 2019 edition of the Mizzou passing game will come from Bryant’s knack for scrambling and improvising.
Slipperiness. Escapability. Power. The kid’s got it.
I mean, watch him slither through the defense for a huge 3rd and 13 conversion.
Then dance around tacklers to pick up a first down on 3rd and 2.
And all against a ferocious Alabama defense.
Bryant is an offensive coordinator’s security blanket— with a scrambler under center Dooley can call any pass with confidence. An unexpected coverage? Facing a great pass rusher? Maybe the primary receiver falls down? Bryant’s legs are always a Plan B. And Plan B can be lethal.
There is, however, a downside. Bryant sometimes takes bad sacks by holding on to the ball in the pocket. His faith in his legs to get him out of trouble can sometimes be costly, as it is here.
Coaches hate when QBs take avoidable sacks. With Bryant under center, Dooley must decide whether to tolerate the odd lost yards that come with this high-risk, high-reward approach. Elliott seems to have been comfortable with the trade-off, probably because Bryant’s gambling can pay off big, as it does on this heady bit of improvisation on 3rd and 16.
Or on this fadeaway heave to set up first and goal.
These plays would not happen if a coach demanded that Bryant safeguard against a sack by throwing the ball away. I wonder whether Dooley can accept the inevitable setbacks that will come with Bryant’s confident-bordering-on-reckless attitude in the pocket, lengthening the leash to allow for the exceptional ad-libbing of which Bryant is capable.
In the last series I offered concrete predictions about changes to the 2019 Mizzou run game. Now I’m not feeling so bold. Any specific conjecture about how Dooley will tweak the Tiger’s passing offense feels recklessly speculative. I hope, though, to have pointed out a few decisions that fall to Dooley’s plate as he installs a dynamic play-maker into the Missouri passing game. It will be fun to see how the questions we’ve posed here—will we see more quick passes, will Bryant be as successful as Lock on intermediate passes, will screens increase in frequency, will Dooley allow Bryant to improvise—get answered over the course of the season.