Thursday, June 13, 2019

Understanding RPO

When it comes to RPO's, there are many versions out there. The challenge defensive coaches face is how to teach RPO's to defenders. Every defense has a clearly established progression for concepts like defending triple option but defining roles & responsibilities for RPO's can be less clear. Well we have rules for quick game and rules for power, what do we do if it is both? RPO as a term has even become problematic. RPO has become a blanket term for a wide variety of offensive concepts. In response we have started breaking down RPO's into 4 categories to help defenders better understand how the RPO works. Understanding the play helps defenders better understand their role in defending the play. 

Access - Access RPO's are looking for free access (space) to throw a route. These are pre-snap decisions from the QB.



This is a simple example. The offense is running a zone read concept. The access portion is to the single WR side. If the there is no overhang defender and an off corner the QB is free to throw the hitch. QB scans pre-snap and if the look is there he throws the quick game route. This could also be a speed out or slant. This type of RPO is a fusion of 3 step quick game passing and a run. Offenses traditionally have thrown quick game on regular down & distance to get or stay on schedule. The issue was the quick game was good against certain looks and not good against others. Some teams employ kills or alerts that allow the offense to audible in and out of quick game at the LOS. Many teams however are uncomfortable allowing the QB to change the play. Enter access RPO and the OC can call the quick game and the run play with the same call. If quick game access is there take it, if not run the called play.

Access RPO is also used to control box numbers and can even be double sided.



If the defense puts defenders on the LOS, like the under front in this example there may be access to throw quick game to a split WR. The access is on both sides in this example. The thought process is if there is no overhang to the strong side and an off corner the hitch has access. 

If the defense rotates the coverage to the strong side the weak side access is in play.


With a strong side overhang the access hitch is dead. Now weak side the access slant may be a possibility for the QB to throw. 

Access RPO can also be used as a blitz control.


The offense does not have a blocker to account for the edge blitzer here. If the edge blitzer shows early the QB can throw the access bubble. This same concept is used to control any overhang aligned defender tight enough to the box where the offense may have trouble blocking. If the overhang player is loading the box by alignment the access bubble can be thrown.

Conflict - Conflict RPO's put an off the LOS defender into a run/pass conflict. The defender is being read post-snap. 




This example is the stick RPO play. The QB is reading the LB (Mike) if the Mike drops to cover the #3 receiver the ball is handed off. If the Mike fills to play the run the QB throws the route.

Another example is the stretch with back side slants.




The ILB (Mike) is the conflict player. If the Mike reacts to the stretch play away the QB can pull the ball out and throw the slant. If the overhang squeezes the inside slant the QB can throw the outside slant. If the Mike does not pursue the stretch the RB may have a seam to put his foot in the ground and get vertical as the flow of the play widens the defense. 

Triple - Triple RPO's use the pass as the third phase of a triple option concept. The third phase throw occurs post-snap.




The play is a zone read with the DE as the first read. The triple portion adds a "pitch" phase to the play. Here the WR screen is the third phase. If the overhang player (Sam) steps up to help play the QB the ball can be thrown out wide.

It is not limited to screens.Teams are also running routes as the third phase.


Here the TE arrow route is designed to stress the DE. If the DE widens with the TE release the play is an easy give read for the QB. If the DE chases the dive the QB can keep. Off the keep if QB is attacked by a defender he can rise up and throw the arrow in the flat. 

Hybrid - Hybrid RPO's are a combination of two of the previous types. These RPO's may have both pre and post-snap elements.



Pre-snap the QB can take the bubble if the overhang (Sam) is too tight to the box or showing blitz. Post-snap the safety is the conflict player. If the Safety is aggressive downhill into the alley the QB can pull the ball and throw the 8 yard glance in behind the safety.



Pre-snap if the hitch is there the QB can take it.
Post-snap the ILB is the conflict defender. If the Mike expands with the RB fast motion the QB keeps and runs following the fold block. If the Mike stays put the QB throws the swing to the RB. 

Why the slot fade? To control 1 high safety defenses(Cover 1, Cover 3, & 3 Match)



Now the defense can build a two LB box. If the pre-snap access hitch is there take it. If the corner is pressed throw the slot fade because the likely coverage is either Cover 1 or 3 Match.



Teams are creating all kinds of combinations.

Pre-snap the access bubble can be thrown if the overhang is too tight to the box or showing blitz. Post-snap the QB is running zone read. If the QB is forced to pull the ball, he has the ability to throw the ball out to a third phase on the bubble.

There are countless RPO concepts out there. Far too many to fit in one article. That is why we have tried to develop a categorizing system to make RPO concepts simpler for our coaches and players.

How do we use this info?

When we break down a team we will label the play Run/Pass/RPO. If the play was an RPO we label:

R/P - Did the RPO result in a run or a pass?
Run - What run concept was the play?
Route - What routes are being run? Even if they didn't throw it. 
Type - Access, Conflict, Triple, Hybrid

We want to understand the whole picture of how does the play work? The opposing defense on film played a hand in the outcome so only looking at the outcome does not tell the whole story. Players can then be informed of the play and how it works as well as our plan against it? Understanding how your pre-snap alignment affects access, or you are the read on a conflict, or there is a "pitch" on a triple, or there are pre and post-snap concepts happening are all critical for defenders to understand the play. That understanding helps players grasp the Why? of their responsibility in defending the play.

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