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Husky Film Room: Packaged plays, bubble screens and arm strength

Otto Greule Jr

There is no doubt that Cyler Miles should be the starting quarterback for the Washington Huskies. Of his backups, Jeff Lindquist is the better and he showed an inability to be remotely accurate in the second half of his chance against Hawaii. He also doesn't have the wheels that that serve as Miles' best attribute.

With that being said, Miles lacks heavily in one area that is very important in quarterback play: arm strength. That can manifest itself in many ways. He will struggle to fit the ball into tight windows down the field, he will struggle with back-shoulder passes and out routes toward the sideline. He has good anticipation and timing, and this can make up for the lack of arm strength in many areas. Where his noodle arm most apparent, however, is on a throw that doesn't even make it past the line of scrimmage. When he has to throw a bubble screen to the sideline, the passes don't reach the receiver in good time, and that time waiting gives defenders a better chance to shed their blockers and make a play on the player receiving the pass.

This you already knew, however. It has been discussed in the comments vehemently over the past several days. Whether you believe that Miles just has a noodle, or whether you believe his mechanics are so out of whack (my belief) doesn't matter: his issue is velocity, regardless of what doesn't get gets him to that point.

A big part of spread offenses with run/pass options are packaged plays, which typically involve three or four options for a quarterback. Danny Kelly did an amazing breakdown of packaged plays in his preview for the NFL season opener. If you haven't read that, go read it now (you'll have to scroll down to get to the part about packaged plays).

Basically, there are four options: read option handoff, read option keeper, bubble screen and play-action pass. Packaged plays are used liberally in spread and hurry-up offenses because they allow for different outcomes with simple playcalls. When a team has the personnel to execute said playcalls, packaged plays can be one of the most difficult things to defend, just imagine trying to defend:

1. Dwayne Washington/Lavon Coleman running between the tackles

2. Cyler Miles threatening the edge

3. John Ross along the sideline

4. Kasen Williams/Darrell Daniels running up the seam

All of these in one play. Another variation on this is the pop pass,

The problem is that with Cyler Miles' arm strength woes, one of those options is not as good as the rest (really, two of those options aren't as good as the rest, but just leaving the play as a read option takes away from the whole packaged play gig). The throws down the seam become more difficult because those throws aren't exactly easy to make with a strong arm, and the bubble screens require more time to develop because of the lack of arm strength.

Typically, the quarterback knows what he is going to do by the time the ball is snapped. Is he going to read the DE/OLB on a standard read option, or is he going to key on other players to determine if he is going to strike down the field or throw the bubble screen? If he elects to keep the ball on the read option, he still could potentially throw the bubble screen.

The potential for a read option keeps the linebackers in the box, ready to defend the run, preventing them from immediately flying to the sideline to stop the screen pass. It holds the linebackers just a little bit longer, though Miles' lack of velocity negates that advantage quite a bit.

This is not to say that bubble screens and packaged plays cannot be effective when a quarterback doesn't have a strong arm. John Ross scored his touchdown on one such play that wasn't exactly well-executed by Miles. The throw wasn't all that accurate or fast, but the cut block from Jaydon Mickens took out two defenders and from then on it was all Ross.

There were several plays where Ross, Mickens and even Deontae Cooper made plays behind the line of scrimmage to make plays when things could have been dead. However, there were also examples of times when things didn't work out quite as well.

A screen to DiAndre Campbell early in the third quarter was one such example.

The Huskies start out in 10 personnel, with two receivers to each side of the field. Campbell and Mickens are at the top of the screen on the short side of the field, Mickens in the slot and Campbell lined up outside. Click the image to make the gif work.


This alone isn't reason enough to stop running these plays. In fact, some sort of variation on packaged plays were used on somewhere around 50 percent of the snaps that I re-watched, though admittedly it is difficult to discern what exactly is designed to be an option and what is designed to be a decoy. Also, having Ross and Mickens means bubble screens need to be a feature in the offense, as they are one of the best ways to feature such dynamic playmakers.