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Post-Snap RPO Reads
There are two types of reads that a quarterback can make when he executes a run or pass option (RPO) play. He can either make a pre-snap read or a post-snap read to decide whether to hand the ball off or throw to the passing concept built into the play. If the RPO concept requires a pre-snap read he can make a box count read or a ratio read. However, if the concept requires a post-snap decision, the quarterback will read and react to a particular defender.
When designing a RPO with a post-snap read, the offensive coordinator targets a defender that has run and pass responsibility. This defender is called the “conflict defender”. He is in conflict because the quarterback will make a decision whether to hand the ball off or throw the ball based on his movement. If the targeted defender plays the run, the quarterback will pull the ball back to throw a pass. If he drops back, the QB will hand the ball off and the offense will execute a run.
The Saints defense is in a Tampa 2 coverage. Aaron Rodgers (#12) and the Packers offense are running a RPO attacking the conflict defender in the yellow square below. The conflict defender is middle linebacker, Curtis Lofton (#50), who is responsible for filling the B gap in the run, but is also responsible for covering the deep middle of the field on a pass.
The Packers put him in conflict by using an RPO with an inside zone run paired with a seam route down the middle of the field. Rodgers is reading Lofton’s movement. If Lofton hesitates or drops back to defend the pass, the QB will hand the ball off and the run exploits the unfiled B gap that Lofton is responsible for. If the linebacker steps towards the run then Rodgers will pull the ball and throw the seam.
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Lofton takes a few steps inside toward the run and that leaves Rodgers with just enough space to fit the ball into the seam for a huge gain.
Designing post-snap RPOs takes an understanding of defensive schemes and the responsibilities of the conflict defenders. In this case, the Packers’ play designer knew that Lofton had two difficult assignments and took advantage of it with good play design.
For more, watch Ted’s video on RPOs here.
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Ted Nguyen wrote this entry. Follow Ted on Twitter @RaidersAnalysis.
All video and images courtesy NFL Game Pass.