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Defending RPOs with 2-Read Coverage

Run-Pass-Options (RPOs) have become all the rage in recent years.  RPOs seek to take advantage of defenders who are in a run-pass-conflict.  This conflict is created because the defender has a gap he must defend in the running game, and a zone he must defend in the passing game.  An offense will execute a run play while reading a second or third level defender.  If that defender fills his run responsibility, the quarterback will pull the ball just before handing it off to a running back and instead throw a quick pass to a receiver in the zone vacated by the conflicted defender.

In this post we’ll look at how we can use 2-Read coverage to defend these concepts.  In the figure below, the blue lines indicate pass responsibilities and the green lines indicate run responsibilities.  Depending on the release of the #2 receiver to their side, the Corner and Safety will either defend their deep quarter of the field, or the Corner will play the Flat Zone and the Safety will defend the deep half.  The Outside Linebacker to either side is responsible for defending the Curl Zone.  The Mike Linebacker is responsible for defending the Hook Zone.  As you can see, the Sam (S) and Will (W) are in a run-pass conflict while the Mike (M) is not.

The offense could run an RPO scheme in which they block inside zone towards the Sam, with the backside tackle locked on the backside defensive End (E).  The quarterback would then read the Will.  If the Will fills his gap responsibility, the quarterback will pull the ball and throw the ball to the slot receiver running a quick hitch into the zone vacated by the Will.

However, by simply sliding the defensive Tackles (T) towards the Will, the gap responsibilities change and the Will’s run-pass conflict is transferred to the Mike.  The Will is free to sit in coverage, forcing the quarterback to hand the ball off.  All gaps are defended and the running back who will have to where to go.

The offense could choose to read the Sam and in the same manner.  By sliding the Tackles in the other direction, the Sam’s run-pass conflict is transferred to the Mike and the Sam he is free to sit in coverage with no immediate run responsibility.

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