Canes Concepts: RPO's

Canes Concepts: RPO's

Lance Roffers
With the world in a sports shutdown, I wanted to introduce a series that looks at concepts that college programs are running while specifically linking to what we can expect our Hurricanes to heavily employ. While listening to a podcast I heard the two podcasters discussing RPO’s (Run-Pass Options) and it struck me that this would be the perfect concept to kick off a new series called Canes Concepts, where I break down different plays and show you why they work and what defenses are trying to do to combat them.

Evolution
While RPO’s are fairly synonymous with modern football, the concept itself has been around for several decades. One of the early origins of the play is from a pre-snap read, rather than a post-snap read. What that means is essentially early versions of the concepts had the QB reading the defensive alignment and making a determination on what the offense is going to do.

An example of this early iteration would be in a situation where the offense comes to the LOS and the defense has moved their SS into the box to help stop the run out of base defense. If the defense is in their base, that means they either have a 3rd LB on the field who would be lined up over the slot receiver, or an additional box player who could be called a SS, but isn’t an excellent coverage player. In that alignment, the slot receiver is going to have a cushion to help protect against a deep pass.

Here, it is simple math for the QB. He walks up, reviews the defense, and if the alignment is right, he will essentially call “smoke” which is an audible to the bubble to the inside slot receiver. While not a true RPO because the decision is made before the snap, the same principles are in play here. Miami used this play to great effect under Mark Richt. NFL teams such as the 49ers under Bill Walsh employed the simple math decisions to their offensive plays as well. If Rosier had three defenders to that side and the slot covered up in press, that means he has a light box in which he has the option to hand the ball off.
1.png


Modern RPO’s
While early versions called for the QB to make a decision and then audible the play call, today’s RPO’s call for the offense to be in sync for either a run call or a pass call on the same play. Let’s walk through a few popular variations of the RPO and what it could look like under Rhett Lashlee:

Inside-Zone with a Backside Slant
The most common RPO play call is the simple Inside-Zone run with a Slant pattern to the opposite side. On this play call, the QB has to read the “Overhang” or “Hook” defender. Ole Miss has walked an eight man down into the box, which means it’s single-high S deep. Due to the speed at wideout for Alabama, the slot defender is giving a lot of cushion (blue arrow). That means the QB knows he has the slant easily, he just has to read the overhand defender. He drops post snap and it’s a give to the RB and if he plays run or stays up, it’s an easy backside slant. The reason why this is so difficult for the defense is that overhang defender is responsible for the B-gap in the backside run (gap between G and T). In this defense, he’s a fill or “chase backside” defender. MLB has both A-gaps (gaps between C & G’s). Stack defender has both the deep seam against the TE and the C gap (gap between T & TE). Standup defender has to seal the edge and rush the passer.
5.png


Post-Snap, you see the OL does a great job just performing their role. The right-side of the line is run blocking for the Inside-Zone give while the left-side of the OL is pass-blocking. LB has decided to step forward and take the run away (green arrows). This makes it an easy-read for the QB and a very simple play. If the QB delivers this ball with accuracy, this simple slant route could be a TD due to the presence of only one S.
9.png


The thing that makes this play even more difficult to stop in the college game from the NFL game is the ability to get further up-the-field and engage in blocking. The NCAA allows for a blocker to get three yards upfield and block before a pass is thrown, whereas the NFL only allows one yard. #88 is releasing to the second-level here and blocking a few yards downfield before the pass is thrown.

If you read my articles you know how big of a proponent I am about taking advantage of all the rules in the college game that allow for offenses to create yards. This rule gives the QB more time to make a decision, whereas the NFL rules requires the QB get the ball out faster and therefore more likely to make a mistake.

Inside-Zone with Front-Side Bubble/Slant Combo
This play is one that Doug Pederson has run for great success with the Philadelphia Eagles. Here, Coach Lashlee uses it with SMU in 2019 against TCU. The QB is reading the slot defender on this play, rather than a LB. If this slot defender attacks the bubble (red arrow), the QB will throw the slant into the area the slot defender vacates (orange arrow). If the slot defender settles, as he does here, the QB will immediately throw the bubble screen (green arrow) and has a blocker on that boundary CB and a receiver in space.
2.png


Inside-Zone with Backside Quick Out
Doug Pederson has made the Eagles’ offense the most prolific RPO offense in the NFL by introducing wrinkles to each situation the defense adjusts for. Here, the defense has schemed to get a free rusher on the QB. The run call for the RPO is an Inside-Zone run and with the defense having five defenders on the LOS, there is no one left to get to the MLB as a blocker if you account for all five rushers. That means in most cases the offense will call a protection change, which calls for the RG to get to the MLB (circled). That calls for the RT to downblock onto the defender that the RG would normally take and leave the standup edge defender unblocked (orange arrow). Notice the boundary CB is playing outside leverage to protect against an outside release deep by the TE.
10.png


But at the snap, the CB jumps inside to jump the slant because of the tendency for this play to have a backside slant as part of the RPO. The offense adjusts the route to a quick out and the CB has no chance to get there. If the CB stays disciplined and keeps that outside leverage, the offense will eat him alive with slants.
3.png


Duo/Jet Sweep with Backside slant
Here is another clip of the Eagles putting a wrinkle on the RPO game (which their offense revolves around). You have two duo blocks and a simple numbers game. Defense has five defenders and offense has five blockers. The defense has a hook defender in the slant zone and with a numbers advantage for the offense, this is an easy give to the RB who can pick which hole he wants to hit and pick up easy yardage. I also love turning this into a QB Lead Draw with the RB picking up any scraping defender and giving the offense an extra blocker. If that hook defender tries to take away the QB run, it’s an easy pull and slant behind it. This is absolutely flawless by the OL as they all have the correct shoulder and leverage to come off and take the LB’s at the next level if the run goes their way. On this play, it is the RB’s job to press either hole and get that LB to commit to that gap and then cut back into the other gap.
6.png


QB Run-Pass Option
An element to the RPO world that has started to accelerate in the past few seasons is utilizing the QB’s ability to run into the RPO game. Going back to the same SMU game against TCU last year, you can see this is not a QB keeper all the way. This is a full-blown RPO. The QB gets the snap and has the option to throw the swing to the RB, or to follow his RG on the counter-lead draw. You can see this is not a run all the way because the RT, the LG, and the LT are all pass blocking while the C and RG are run blocking. TCU has four defenders to the top of the screen overplaying the bubble, making this an easy decision to run the lead draw and walk into the end-zone.
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What Can the Defense Do?
As I’ve shown you, the offense has a variety of ways to simplify decisions for the QB and make it to where the defense is always wrong. So, what does the defense do to combat the stress that the RPO game puts on them?

Man-to-Man Defense
More specifically, press-man coverage that allows the CB to take away the quick slant. Nick Saban is considered one of the foremost defensive minds when it comes to secondary play and combating the RPO passing attack. He believes you have to play press-mirror against that slot receiver to slow it down.

On this play, Alabama is clearly focused on playing the RPO game differently than LSU has seen previously. Inside slot has the nickel defender much closer than is normal for this alignment. Second slot is up on the LOS and looking to disrupt the timing of the receiver. This makes the QB have to hold onto the ball for a second longer and delays the timing of the concept.
7.png


In Saban’s defense, he calls this slot/S hybrid player a “dollar” player. Think of the Minkah Fitzpatrick role previously and Xavier McKinney this season. He relies on the backside safety and corner to help the dollar with run support so that the first action for the dollar can be to take that Slant/Hook route. So instead of S crashing slant support, he’s the run support into the B gap (blue circle). You have to have speed and athleticism to ask your S to do this, but Alabama always does. If the QB tries to only read the LB on this play and the Dollar jumps the slant, it could be an interception, so now the QB has to read his keys in two places. Confusion for the QB is always good for the defense. The only time the S will help defend anything but deep is if the inside slot receiver runs a speed out and that S is already stacked to come down and help on that route. (On this play the QB wanted the slant and it wasn’t open and was forced to scramble)

Line Changes/Stunts
I’ve written above that the QB is simply reading the overhang defender on most RPO’s and that if he drops it’s a give to the run. The reason, besides that defender dropping into the hook/slant zone, is that this defender would typically have responsibility for the B-gap in the run game. The defense can change responsibilities against the run by playing games with their line shifts or with stunts. Stunting defensive linemen change the view for the QB and can cause hesitation. On many RPO’s there will be a free rusher because one side of the OL is trying to run block and wants to get to the second level. Stunts and twists can get a rusher free. If the QB hesitates he might not have time to deliver the ball and a run give into a line shifting into that gap will result in a negative play.

Here, Alabama takes Raekwon Davis (orange circle) and stunts him around the NT. He comes clean and nails Burrow just as he’s throwing the deep crosser. For you film junkies, this is technically a play-action pass, but the concept is the same defending an RPO.
8.png


Pre-Snap Disguise

If a defense is able to convince the QB they are in a defense that puts the overhang defender in a bind, the QB will trust his read post-snap. Another way to combat this is to disguise your defense so that the overhang defender only has one responsibility. Generally, you will do this by having a S who is gonna enough in the box to defend the run and have him responsible for the B-gap only on the play. This means a pre-snap look that looks like a two-high S look will turn into a single-S look post-snap and that S will be playing the B-gap immediately and the overhang defender will be playing the hook/slant zone only. You’re more susceptible to big plays if you guess wrong or don’t get pressure on this one.

Hit the QB
I’ve mentioned before that often times the design of the play will leave a defender unblocked and the QB is just relied upon to get rid of the ball quickly. That free rusher needs to hit the QB and hit him hard as often as legally possible. Most teams will not enjoy seeing their QB take big hits repeatedly in a game and will be less likely to call those plays after it happens a few times.

Fast and physical defense will win you a lot of games.

Overview:
As rules continue to slant towards offense at all levels of football, the RPO concept is yet another concept that allows the offense to put the defense in a position that they cannot be right. Each offense will have their own wrinkles on this new-wave concept, but rest assured that every successful offense in the nation will be employing their own RPO concepts this season.
 

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Comments (20)

A QB like King will have the running ability to obliterate opposing defenses with an RPO attack. On top of having the choice to hand off to the RB or pass it, defenses will have to account for King’s ability to keep it and run. Every time King goes to hand off to rooster (for example), a DE that might get to flow through untouched would have to wait and see who’s coming away with the ball rather than go straight for the RB.
 
A QB like King will have the running ability to obliterate opposing defenses with an RPO attack. On top of having the choice to hand off to the RB or pass it, defenses will have to account for King’s ability to keep it and run. Every time King goes to hand off to rooster (for example), a DE that might get to flow through untouched would have to wait and see who’s coming away with the ball rather than go straight for the RB.
Exactly. Forces defenders to think much more than they're comfortable doing.
 
Exactly. Forces defenders to think much more than they're comfortable doing.
With what King brings to the table as a runner, there will always be an open option for him in an RPO. A defense can’t defend can’t neutralize all 3 options on a single play IMO. Me personally, I think he’s going to **** in a couple ACC DC’s bowls of Cheerios.
 
With the world in a sports shutdown, I wanted to introduce a series that looks at concepts that college programs are running while specifically linking to what we can expect our Hurricanes to heavily employ. While listening to a podcast I heard the two podcasters discussing RPO’s (Run-Pass Options) and it struck me that this would be the perfect concept to kick off a new series called Canes Concepts, where I break down different plays and show you why they work and what defenses are trying to do to combat them.

Evolution
While RPO’s are fairly synonymous with modern football, the concept itself has been around for several decades. One of the early origins of the play is from a pre-snap read, rather than a post-snap read. What that means is essentially early versions of the concepts had the QB reading the defensive alignment and making a determination on what the offense is going to do.

An example of this early iteration would be in a situation where the offense comes to the LOS and the defense has moved their SS into the box to help stop the run out of base defense. If the defense is in their base, that means they either have a 3rd LB on the field who would be lined up over the slot receiver, or an additional box player who could be called a SS, but isn’t an excellent coverage player. In that alignment, the slot receiver is going to have a cushion to help protect against a deep pass.

Here, it is simple math for the QB. He walks up, reviews the defense, and if the alignment is right, he will essentially call “smoke” which is an audible to the bubble to the inside slot receiver. While not a true RPO because the decision is made before the snap, the same principles are in play here. Miami used this play to great effect under Mark Richt. NFL teams such as the 49ers under Bill Walsh employed the simple math decisions to their offensive plays as well. If Rosier had three defenders to that side and the slot covered up in press, that means he has a light box in which he has the option to hand the ball off.
View attachment 117042

Modern RPO’s
While early versions called for the QB to make a decision and then audible the play call, today’s RPO’s call for the offense to be in sync for either a run call or a pass call on the same play. Let’s walk through a few popular variations of the RPO and what it could look like under Rhett Lashlee:

Inside-Zone with a Backside Slant
The most common RPO play call is the simple Inside-Zone run with a Slant pattern to the opposite side. On this play call, the QB has to read the “Overhang” or “Hook” defender. Ole Miss has walked an eight man down into the box, which means it’s single-high S deep. Due to the speed at wideout for Alabama, the slot defender is giving a lot of cushion (blue arrow). That means the QB knows he has the slant easily, he just has to read the overhand defender. He drops post snap and it’s a give to the RB and if he plays run or stays up, it’s an easy backside slant. The reason why this is so difficult for the defense is that overhang defender is responsible for the B-gap in the backside run (gap between G and T). In this defense, he’s a fill or “chase backside” defender. MLB has both A-gaps (gaps between C & G’s). Stack defender has both the deep seam against the TE and the C gap (gap between T & TE). Standup defender has to seal the edge and rush the passer.
View attachment 117045

Post-Snap, you see the OL does a great job just performing their role. The right-side of the line is run blocking for the Inside-Zone give while the left-side of the OL is pass-blocking. LB has decided to step forward and take the run away (green arrows). This makes it an easy-read for the QB and a very simple play. If the QB delivers this ball with accuracy, this simple slant route could be a TD due to the presence of only one S.
View attachment 117046

The thing that makes this play even more difficult to stop in the college game from the NFL game is the ability to get further up-the-field and engage in blocking. The NCAA allows for a blocker to get three yards upfield and block before a pass is thrown, whereas the NFL only allows one yard. #88 is releasing to the second-level here and blocking a few yards downfield before the pass is thrown.

If you read my articles you know how big of a proponent I am about taking advantage of all the rules in the college game that allow for offenses to create yards. This rule gives the QB more time to make a decision, whereas the NFL rules requires the QB get the ball out faster and therefore more likely to make a mistake.

Inside-Zone with Front-Side Bubble/Slant Combo
This play is one that Doug Pederson has run for great success with the Philadelphia Eagles. Here, Coach Lashlee uses it with SMU in 2019 against TCU. The QB is reading the slot defender on this play, rather than a LB. If this slot defender attacks the bubble (red arrow), the QB will throw the slant into the area the slot defender vacates (orange arrow). If the slot defender settles, as he does here, the QB will immediately throw the bubble screen (green arrow) and has a blocker on that boundary CB and a receiver in space.
View attachment 117047

Inside-Zone with Backside Quick Out
Doug Pederson has made the Eagles’ offense the most prolific RPO offense in the NFL by introducing wrinkles to each situation the defense adjusts for. Here, the defense has schemed to get a free rusher on the QB. The run call for the RPO is an Inside-Zone run and with the defense having five defenders on the LOS, there is no one left to get to the MLB as a blocker if you account for all five rushers. That means in most cases the offense will call a protection change, which calls for the RG to get to the MLB (circled). That calls for the RT to downblock onto the defender that the RG would normally take and leave the standup edge defender unblocked (orange arrow). Notice the boundary CB is playing outside leverage to protect against an outside release deep by the TE.
View attachment 117048

But at the snap, the CB jumps inside to jump the slant because of the tendency for this play to have a backside slant as part of the RPO. The offense adjusts the route to a quick out and the CB has no chance to get there. If the CB stays disciplined and keeps that outside leverage, the offense will eat him alive with slants.
View attachment 117049

Duo/Jet Sweep with Backside slant
Here is another clip of the Eagles putting a wrinkle on the RPO game (which their offense revolves around). You have two duo blocks and a simple numbers game. Defense has five defenders and offense has five blockers. The defense has a hook defender in the slant zone and with a numbers advantage for the offense, this is an easy give to the RB who can pick which hole he wants to hit and pick up easy yardage. I also love turning this into a QB Lead Draw with the RB picking up any scraping defender and giving the offense an extra blocker. If that hook defender tries to take away the QB run, it’s an easy pull and slant behind it. This is absolutely flawless by the OL as they all have the correct shoulder and leverage to come off and take the LB’s at the next level if the run goes their way. On this play, it is the RB’s job to press either hole and get that LB to commit to that gap and then cut back into the other gap.
View attachment 117050

QB Run-Pass Option
An element to the RPO world that has started to accelerate in the past few seasons is utilizing the QB’s ability to run into the RPO game. Going back to the same SMU game against TCU last year, you can see this is not a QB keeper all the way. This is a full-blown RPO. The QB gets the snap and has the option to throw the swing to the RB, or to follow his RG on the counter-lead draw. You can see this is not a run all the way because the RT, the LG, and the LT are all pass blocking while the C and RG are run blocking. TCU has four defenders to the top of the screen overplaying the bubble, making this an easy decision to run the lead draw and walk into the end-zone.
View attachment 117051

What Can the Defense Do?
As I’ve shown you, the offense has a variety of ways to simplify decisions for the QB and make it to where the defense is always wrong. So, what does the defense do to combat the stress that the RPO game puts on them?

Man-to-Man Defense
More specifically, press-man coverage that allows the CB to take away the quick slant. Nick Saban is considered one of the foremost defensive minds when it comes to secondary play and combating the RPO passing attack. He believes you have to play press-mirror against that slot receiver to slow it down.

On this play, Alabama is clearly focused on playing the RPO game differently than LSU has seen previously. Inside slot has the nickel defender much closer than is normal for this alignment. Second slot is up on the LOS and looking to disrupt the timing of the receiver. This makes the QB have to hold onto the ball for a second longer and delays the timing of the concept.
View attachment 117052

In Saban’s defense, he calls this slot/S hybrid player a “dollar” player. Think of the Minkah Fitzpatrick role previously and Xavier McKinney this season. He relies on the backside safety and corner to help the dollar with run support so that the first action for the dollar can be to take that Slant/Hook route. So instead of S crashing slant support, he’s the run support into the B gap (blue circle). You have to have speed and athleticism to ask your S to do this, but Alabama always does. If the QB tries to only read the LB on this play and the Dollar jumps the slant, it could be an interception, so now the QB has to read his keys in two places. Confusion for the QB is always good for the defense. The only time the S will help defend anything but deep is if the inside slot receiver runs a speed out and that S is already stacked to come down and help on that route. (On this play the QB wanted the slant and it wasn’t open and was forced to scramble)

Line Changes/Stunts
I’ve written above that the QB is simply reading the overhang defender on most RPO’s and that if he drops it’s a give to the run. The reason, besides that defender dropping into the hook/slant zone, is that this defender would typically have responsibility for the B-gap in the run game. The defense can change responsibilities against the run by playing games with their line shifts or with stunts. Stunting defensive linemen change the view for the QB and can cause hesitation. On many RPO’s there will be a free rusher because one side of the OL is trying to run block and wants to get to the second level. Stunts and twists can get a rusher free. If the QB hesitates he might not have time to deliver the ball and a run give into a line shifting into that gap will result in a negative play.

Here, Alabama takes Raekwon Davis (orange circle) and stunts him around the NT. He comes clean and nails Burrow just as he’s throwing the deep crosser. For you film junkies, this is technically a play-action pass, but the concept is the same defending an RPO.
View attachment 117053

Pre-Snap Disguise

If a defense is able to convince the QB they are in a defense that puts the overhang defender in a bind, the QB will trust his read post-snap. Another way to combat this is to disguise your defense so that the overhang defender only has one responsibility. Generally, you will do this by having a S who is gonna enough in the box to defend the run and have him responsible for the B-gap only on the play. This means a pre-snap look that looks like a two-high S look will turn into a single-S look post-snap and that S will be playing the B-gap immediately and the overhang defender will be playing the hook/slant zone only. You’re more susceptible to big plays if you guess wrong or don’t get pressure on this one.

Hit the QB
I’ve mentioned before that often times the design of the play will leave a defender unblocked and the QB is just relied upon to get rid of the ball quickly. That free rusher needs to hit the QB and hit him hard as often as legally possible. Most teams will not enjoy seeing their QB take big hits repeatedly in a game and will be less likely to call those plays after it happens a few times.

Fast and physical defense will win you a lot of games.

Overview:
As rules continue to slant towards offense at all levels of football, the RPO concept is yet another concept that allows the offense to put the defense in a position that they cannot be right. Each offense will have their own wrinkles on this new-wave concept, but rest assured that every successful offense in the nation will be employing their own RPO concepts this season.
You are a treasure for Canes fandom!!!
 
Got my X’s and O’s Fix. Great as always, Lance
 
With what King brings to the table as a runner, there will always be an open option for him in an RPO. A defense can’t defend can’t neutralize all 3 options on a single play IMO. Me personally, I think he’s going to **** in a couple ACC DC’s bowls of Cheerios.
No doubt. It'll take a tremendous d line to neutralize King as a runner in the RPO game. If a team sells out to stop King he gets 1 on 1 opportunities in the passing game on the edges.
 
With the world in a sports shutdown, I wanted to introduce a series that looks at concepts that college programs are running while specifically linking to what we can expect our Hurricanes to heavily employ. While listening to a podcast I heard the two podcasters discussing RPO’s (Run-Pass Options) and it struck me that this would be the perfect concept to kick off a new series called Canes Concepts, where I break down different plays and show you why they work and what defenses are trying to do to combat them.

Evolution
While RPO’s are fairly synonymous with modern football, the concept itself has been around for several decades. One of the early origins of the play is from a pre-snap read, rather than a post-snap read. What that means is essentially early versions of the concepts had the QB reading the defensive alignment and making a determination on what the offense is going to do.

An example of this early iteration would be in a situation where the offense comes to the LOS and the defense has moved their SS into the box to help stop the run out of base defense. If the defense is in their base, that means they either have a 3rd LB on the field who would be lined up over the slot receiver, or an additional box player who could be called a SS, but isn’t an excellent coverage player. In that alignment, the slot receiver is going to have a cushion to help protect against a deep pass.

Here, it is simple math for the QB. He walks up, reviews the defense, and if the alignment is right, he will essentially call “smoke” which is an audible to the bubble to the inside slot receiver. While not a true RPO because the decision is made before the snap, the same principles are in play here. Miami used this play to great effect under Mark Richt. NFL teams such as the 49ers under Bill Walsh employed the simple math decisions to their offensive plays as well. If Rosier had three defenders to that side and the slot covered up in press, that means he has a light box in which he has the option to hand the ball off.
View attachment 117042

Modern RPO’s
While early versions called for the QB to make a decision and then audible the play call, today’s RPO’s call for the offense to be in sync for either a run call or a pass call on the same play. Let’s walk through a few popular variations of the RPO and what it could look like under Rhett Lashlee:

Inside-Zone with a Backside Slant
The most common RPO play call is the simple Inside-Zone run with a Slant pattern to the opposite side. On this play call, the QB has to read the “Overhang” or “Hook” defender. Ole Miss has walked an eight man down into the box, which means it’s single-high S deep. Due to the speed at wideout for Alabama, the slot defender is giving a lot of cushion (blue arrow). That means the QB knows he has the slant easily, he just has to read the overhand defender. He drops post snap and it’s a give to the RB and if he plays run or stays up, it’s an easy backside slant. The reason why this is so difficult for the defense is that overhang defender is responsible for the B-gap in the backside run (gap between G and T). In this defense, he’s a fill or “chase backside” defender. MLB has both A-gaps (gaps between C & G’s). Stack defender has both the deep seam against the TE and the C gap (gap between T & TE). Standup defender has to seal the edge and rush the passer.
View attachment 117045

Post-Snap, you see the OL does a great job just performing their role. The right-side of the line is run blocking for the Inside-Zone give while the left-side of the OL is pass-blocking. LB has decided to step forward and take the run away (green arrows). This makes it an easy-read for the QB and a very simple play. If the QB delivers this ball with accuracy, this simple slant route could be a TD due to the presence of only one S.
View attachment 117046

The thing that makes this play even more difficult to stop in the college game from the NFL game is the ability to get further up-the-field and engage in blocking. The NCAA allows for a blocker to get three yards upfield and block before a pass is thrown, whereas the NFL only allows one yard. #88 is releasing to the second-level here and blocking a few yards downfield before the pass is thrown.

If you read my articles you know how big of a proponent I am about taking advantage of all the rules in the college game that allow for offenses to create yards. This rule gives the QB more time to make a decision, whereas the NFL rules requires the QB get the ball out faster and therefore more likely to make a mistake.

Inside-Zone with Front-Side Bubble/Slant Combo
This play is one that Doug Pederson has run for great success with the Philadelphia Eagles. Here, Coach Lashlee uses it with SMU in 2019 against TCU. The QB is reading the slot defender on this play, rather than a LB. If this slot defender attacks the bubble (red arrow), the QB will throw the slant into the area the slot defender vacates (orange arrow). If the slot defender settles, as he does here, the QB will immediately throw the bubble screen (green arrow) and has a blocker on that boundary CB and a receiver in space.
View attachment 117047

Inside-Zone with Backside Quick Out
Doug Pederson has made the Eagles’ offense the most prolific RPO offense in the NFL by introducing wrinkles to each situation the defense adjusts for. Here, the defense has schemed to get a free rusher on the QB. The run call for the RPO is an Inside-Zone run and with the defense having five defenders on the LOS, there is no one left to get to the MLB as a blocker if you account for all five rushers. That means in most cases the offense will call a protection change, which calls for the RG to get to the MLB (circled). That calls for the RT to downblock onto the defender that the RG would normally take and leave the standup edge defender unblocked (orange arrow). Notice the boundary CB is playing outside leverage to protect against an outside release deep by the TE.
View attachment 117048

But at the snap, the CB jumps inside to jump the slant because of the tendency for this play to have a backside slant as part of the RPO. The offense adjusts the route to a quick out and the CB has no chance to get there. If the CB stays disciplined and keeps that outside leverage, the offense will eat him alive with slants.
View attachment 117049

Duo/Jet Sweep with Backside slant
Here is another clip of the Eagles putting a wrinkle on the RPO game (which their offense revolves around). You have two duo blocks and a simple numbers game. Defense has five defenders and offense has five blockers. The defense has a hook defender in the slant zone and with a numbers advantage for the offense, this is an easy give to the RB who can pick which hole he wants to hit and pick up easy yardage. I also love turning this into a QB Lead Draw with the RB picking up any scraping defender and giving the offense an extra blocker. If that hook defender tries to take away the QB run, it’s an easy pull and slant behind it. This is absolutely flawless by the OL as they all have the correct shoulder and leverage to come off and take the LB’s at the next level if the run goes their way. On this play, it is the RB’s job to press either hole and get that LB to commit to that gap and then cut back into the other gap.
View attachment 117050

QB Run-Pass Option
An element to the RPO world that has started to accelerate in the past few seasons is utilizing the QB’s ability to run into the RPO game. Going back to the same SMU game against TCU last year, you can see this is not a QB keeper all the way. This is a full-blown RPO. The QB gets the snap and has the option to throw the swing to the RB, or to follow his RG on the counter-lead draw. You can see this is not a run all the way because the RT, the LG, and the LT are all pass blocking while the C and RG are run blocking. TCU has four defenders to the top of the screen overplaying the bubble, making this an easy decision to run the lead draw and walk into the end-zone.
View attachment 117051

What Can the Defense Do?
As I’ve shown you, the offense has a variety of ways to simplify decisions for the QB and make it to where the defense is always wrong. So, what does the defense do to combat the stress that the RPO game puts on them?

Man-to-Man Defense
More specifically, press-man coverage that allows the CB to take away the quick slant. Nick Saban is considered one of the foremost defensive minds when it comes to secondary play and combating the RPO passing attack. He believes you have to play press-mirror against that slot receiver to slow it down.

On this play, Alabama is clearly focused on playing the RPO game differently than LSU has seen previously. Inside slot has the nickel defender much closer than is normal for this alignment. Second slot is up on the LOS and looking to disrupt the timing of the receiver. This makes the QB have to hold onto the ball for a second longer and delays the timing of the concept.
View attachment 117052

In Saban’s defense, he calls this slot/S hybrid player a “dollar” player. Think of the Minkah Fitzpatrick role previously and Xavier McKinney this season. He relies on the backside safety and corner to help the dollar with run support so that the first action for the dollar can be to take that Slant/Hook route. So instead of S crashing slant support, he’s the run support into the B gap (blue circle). You have to have speed and athleticism to ask your S to do this, but Alabama always does. If the QB tries to only read the LB on this play and the Dollar jumps the slant, it could be an interception, so now the QB has to read his keys in two places. Confusion for the QB is always good for the defense. The only time the S will help defend anything but deep is if the inside slot receiver runs a speed out and that S is already stacked to come down and help on that route. (On this play the QB wanted the slant and it wasn’t open and was forced to scramble)

Line Changes/Stunts
I’ve written above that the QB is simply reading the overhang defender on most RPO’s and that if he drops it’s a give to the run. The reason, besides that defender dropping into the hook/slant zone, is that this defender would typically have responsibility for the B-gap in the run game. The defense can change responsibilities against the run by playing games with their line shifts or with stunts. Stunting defensive linemen change the view for the QB and can cause hesitation. On many RPO’s there will be a free rusher because one side of the OL is trying to run block and wants to get to the second level. Stunts and twists can get a rusher free. If the QB hesitates he might not have time to deliver the ball and a run give into a line shifting into that gap will result in a negative play.

Here, Alabama takes Raekwon Davis (orange circle) and stunts him around the NT. He comes clean and nails Burrow just as he’s throwing the deep crosser. For you film junkies, this is technically a play-action pass, but the concept is the same defending an RPO.
View attachment 117053

Pre-Snap Disguise

If a defense is able to convince the QB they are in a defense that puts the overhang defender in a bind, the QB will trust his read post-snap. Another way to combat this is to disguise your defense so that the overhang defender only has one responsibility. Generally, you will do this by having a S who is gonna enough in the box to defend the run and have him responsible for the B-gap only on the play. This means a pre-snap look that looks like a two-high S look will turn into a single-S look post-snap and that S will be playing the B-gap immediately and the overhang defender will be playing the hook/slant zone only. You’re more susceptible to big plays if you guess wrong or don’t get pressure on this one.

Hit the QB
I’ve mentioned before that often times the design of the play will leave a defender unblocked and the QB is just relied upon to get rid of the ball quickly. That free rusher needs to hit the QB and hit him hard as often as legally possible. Most teams will not enjoy seeing their QB take big hits repeatedly in a game and will be less likely to call those plays after it happens a few times.

Fast and physical defense will win you a lot of games.

Overview:
As rules continue to slant towards offense at all levels of football, the RPO concept is yet another concept that allows the offense to put the defense in a position that they cannot be right. Each offense will have their own wrinkles on this new-wave concept, but rest assured that every successful offense in the nation will be employing their own RPO concepts this season.
Why the hell are you not working for a major D1 program or NFL!!??

GREAT STUFF!!!

PS Bart Starr's Ice Bowl QB sneak was an RPO.
 
I have a love-hate relationship with RPO's.
I love them because as a defensive guy I know how hard they are to stop. And it's a brilliant concept that takes advantage of a loophole.
But at the same time I hate them because it's cheating. LOL
Allowing linemen to run block down field is a huge disadvantage to the defense. It's not fair really, because they're getting a RUN READ.

I was able to find ways to manipulate the QB's post-snap RPO reads. (at least on this level of football)

Because I utilize the 3-4 defense, generally my blitzing OLB is completely unblocked during RPO plays. And this is good news for me because generally that's where I put my most explosive player. (aka a guy you don't wanna leave unblocked)
You can normally use this unblocked defender to manipulate the QB's run/pass read.

Few examples...

[FIRST STEP IS ALIGNING YOUR RUSH OLB TO THE RB's SIDE]

1. If I send that OLB screaming directly to your QB, we know he's gonna hand the ball off. He can't throw it. And if he does try, he'll end up out of the game with a broken sternum. We've taken the "pass" option out of the RPO. Our conflict defender can fill his run gap.

2. Send that blitzing OLB (unblocked defender) straight to the RB at 100mph. You've got one job, tackle the RB. In this event, the QB will pull the ball and chose to throw it. If he doesn't, it'll be a TFL every time. Now since you know that the QB is going to pull the ball and throw, you leave the "conflict defender" (guy who's being RPO'd) in his coverage zone. You tell him to stick his feet in concrete and stay in the throwing window. This will cause you to lose an immediate hat in the run game, but you don't need him. You're tackling the running back immediately with your unblocked defender. This will cause the QB to double-clutch the ball, and now the timing of the RPO is ruined. Your DL probably gets a sack here, because remember, the OL is run-blocking.

3. I pinch my 3-4 DE's into the B-gaps...or I line-up in a front called "3-4 tite", which aligns the DE's in 4i's (just inside the offensive tackles). This front is becoming very common in college football lately to combat RPO's and zone running plays. This essentially controls both B-gaps and relieves your conflict defender of immediate run responsibility. (he no longer has a B-gap to fill)
This is a strategy I used in the playoffs versus Palm Beach Gardens when they marched right down the field on us during the first drive of the game using RPO's.

*Fill the B-gaps with D-linemen.
*Use your unblocked defender to ATTACK the QB or RB (your preference) IMMEDIATELY. Don't sit and read!
*Take the conflict defender OUT OF CONFLICT.

If offenses are going to leave one of your defenders unblocked, IMO you have to use him to attack and punish either one of the offensive players who are being used in the RPO. (QB or RB)
By doing this you can usually manipulate their decision making.
 
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I have a love-hate relationship with RPO's.
I love them because as a defensive guy I know how hard they are to stop. And it's a brilliant concept that takes advantage of a loophole.
But at the same time I hate them because it's cheating. LOL
Allowing linemen to run block down field is a huge disadvantage to the defense. It's not fair really, because they're getting a RUN READ.

I was able to find ways to manipulate the QB's post-snap RPO reads. (at least on this level of football)

Because I utilize the 3-4 defense, generally my blitzing OLB is completely unblocked during RPO plays. And this is good news for me because generally that's where I put my most explosive player. (aka a guy you don't wanna leave unblocked)
You can normally use this unblocked defender to manipulate the QB's run/pass read.

Few examples...

[FIRST STEP IS ALIGNING YOUR RUSH OLB TO THE RB's SIDE]

1. If I send that OLB screaming directly to your QB, we know he's gonna hand the ball off. He can't throw it. And if he does try, he'll end up out of the game with a broken sternum. We've taken the "pass" option out of the RPO. Our conflict defender can fill his run gap.

2. Send that blitzing OLB (unblocked defender) straight to the RB at 100mph. You've got one job, tackle the RB. In this event, the QB will pull the ball and chose to throw it. If he doesn't, it'll be a TFL every time. Now since you know that the QB is going to pull the ball and throw, you leave the "conflict defender" (guy who's being RPO'd) in his coverage zone. You tell him to stick his feet in concrete and stay in the throwing window. This will cause you to lose an immediate hat in the run game, but you don't need him. You're tackling the running back immediately with your unblocked defender. This will cause the QB to double-clutch the ball, and now the timing of the RPO is ruined. Your DL probably gets a sack here, because remember, the OL is run-blocking.

3. I pinch my 3-4 DE's into the B-gaps...or I line-up in a front called "3-4 tite", which aligns the DE's in 4i's (just inside the offensive tackles). This front is becoming very common in college football lately to combat RPO's and zone running plays. This essentially controls both B-gaps and relieves your conflict defender of immediate run responsibility. (he no longer has a B-gap to fill)
This is a strategy I used in the playoffs versus Palm Beach Gardens when they marched right down the field on us during the first drive of the game using RPO's.

*Fill the B-gaps with D-linemen.
*Use your unblocked defender to ATTACK the QB or RB (your preference) IMMEDIATELY. Don't sit and read!
*Take the conflict defender OUT OF CONFLICT.

If offenses are going to leave one of your defenders unblocked, IMO you have to use him to attack and punish either one of the offensive players who are being used in the RPO. (QB or RB)
By doing this you can usually manipulate their decision making.
3BB1F6F6-666C-43FA-A190-EDE99E1F5976.gif
 
I have a love-hate relationship with RPO's.
I love them because as a defensive guy I know how hard they are to stop. And it's a brilliant concept that takes advantage of a loophole.
But at the same time I hate them because it's cheating. LOL
Allowing linemen to run block down field is a huge disadvantage to the defense. It's not fair really, because they're getting a RUN READ.

I was able to find ways to manipulate the QB's post-snap RPO reads. (at least on this level of football)

Because I utilize the 3-4 defense, generally my blitzing OLB is completely unblocked during RPO plays. And this is good news for me because generally that's where I put my most explosive player. (aka a guy you don't wanna leave unblocked)
You can normally use this unblocked defender to manipulate the QB's run/pass read.

Few examples...

[FIRST STEP IS ALIGNING YOUR RUSH OLB TO THE RB's SIDE]

1. If I send that OLB screaming directly to your QB, we know he's gonna hand the ball off. He can't throw it. And if he does try, he'll end up out of the game with a broken sternum. We've taken the "pass" option out of the RPO. Our conflict defender can fill his run gap.

2. Send that blitzing OLB (unblocked defender) straight to the RB at 100mph. You've got one job, tackle the RB. In this event, the QB will pull the ball and chose to throw it. If he doesn't, it'll be a TFL every time. Now since you know that the QB is going to pull the ball and throw, you leave the "conflict defender" (guy who's being RPO'd) in his coverage zone. You tell him to stick his feet in concrete and stay in the throwing window. This will cause you to lose an immediate hat in the run game, but you don't need him. You're tackling the running back immediately with your unblocked defender. This will cause the QB to double-clutch the ball, and now the timing of the RPO is ruined. Your DL probably gets a sack here, because remember, the OL is run-blocking.

3. I pinch my 3-4 DE's into the B-gaps...or I line-up in a front called "3-4 tite", which aligns the DE's in 4i's (just inside the offensive tackles). This front is becoming very common in college football lately to combat RPO's and zone running plays. This essentially controls both B-gaps and relieves your conflict defender of immediate run responsibility. (he no longer has a B-gap to fill)
This is a strategy I used in the playoffs versus Palm Beach Gardens when they marched right down the field on us during the first drive of the game using RPO's.

*Fill the B-gaps with D-linemen.
*Use your unblocked defender to ATTACK the QB or RB (your preference) IMMEDIATELY. Don't sit and read!
*Take the conflict defender OUT OF CONFLICT.

If offenses are going to leave one of your defenders unblocked, IMO you have to use him to attack and punish either one of the offensive players who are being used in the RPO. (QB or RB)
By doing this you can usually manipulate their decision making.
Great post, it’s nice to see it from a DC’s perspective.
 
One small note: when running inside zone with a pass tagged to it most teams will still run block on the backside. The term is usually called lock. Locking the tackle or the TE on the edge player to ensure no free rusher.
 
One small note: when running inside zone with a pass tagged to it most teams will still run block on the backside. The term is usually called lock. Locking the tackle or the TE on the edge player to ensure no free rusher.
If you lock the Tackle onto the edge player in the 3-4 (rush OLB) then you're allowing the DE to come free.
Screenshot_2020-05-18-03-32-24(1).png



And versus the "3-4 tight" front there is no edge player and no back-side B-gap for Inside Zone. (which is where it's designed to go)
Screenshot_2020-05-18-03-34-56(1).png
 
If you lock the Tackle onto the edge player in the 3-4 (rush OLB) then you're allowing the DE to come free.
View attachment 117115


And versus the "3-4 tight" front there is no edge player and no back-side B-gap for Inside Zone. (which is where it's designed to go)
View attachment 117116
Vs an odd front you are basing both the 4 tech and edge rusher as your Qb is reading the will. Base tight is a great front as a 4i really messes with traditional blocking techniques. Hard to get a good double unless you cheat your splits down.
 

2021 Commits

OG
6'2"
295
Miami, FL
DT
6'4"
290
Miami, FL
RB
6'0"
225
Hollywood, FL
TE
6'4"
210
Frisco, TX
OT
6'7"
255
Pompano Beach, FL
CB
5'10"
145
Miami, FL
TE
6'2"
205
Miami, FL
CB
5'11"
160
Fort Myers, FL
C
6'3"
280
Miami, FL
OLB
6'3"
205
Miami, FL

Latest Predictions

by Stylie
Medium
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2020 Schedule

09/05
Temple
Miami Gardens, FL
09/12
Wagner
Miami Gardens, FL
09/17
UAB
Miami Gardens, FL
09/26
Michigan State
East Lansing, MI
10/03
Pittsburgh
Miami Gardens, FL
10/09
Wake Forest
Winston-Salem, NC
10/24
North Carolina
Miami Gardens, FL
10/31
Virginia
Charlottesville, VA
11/07
Florida State
Miami Gardens, FL
11/14
Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, VA
11/21
Georgia Tech
Atlanta, GA
11/28
Duke
Miami Gardens, FL
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