ITP Glossary: Pre-Snap RPO Reads

Football is littered with specialized terminology. From punt gunner to climbing the pocket, commentators rarely get to explain everything you need to know before the next play. Inside The Pylon’s glossary was developed to give fans a deeper understanding of the game through clear explanations, as well as image and video examples. Please contact us with any terms or phrases you’d like to know more about.

Pre-Snap RPO Reads

There are two type of reads that a quarterback makes when he executes a run or pass option (RPO). 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.

Box Count Read

A box count read is simply counting the defenders in the tackle box. If there are more defenders than blockers, then the quarterback will opt for the passing concept. However, if the number of blockers match the number of defenders in the box, the offense has one blocker per defender, which is favorable for the running game. In this instance, the quarterback will hand the ball off.

This RPO concept in the image above combines a sweep run to the right with a three receiver bubble screen to the left. There are seven defenders in the box, which is too many defenders for the offense to block because they only have six blockers (5 OL + 1 TE). Aaron Rodgers decides to throw the ball to the bubble screen, which is the correct decision.

Ratio Read


If the quarterback makes a ratio read, he is looking at how many defenders are in the proximity of the bubble screen rather than looking in the tackle box. The purple line in the image above is referred to by some coaches as the “hard deck line”. It is typically 7 yards from the line of scrimmage. The quarterback will not count any defender that is deeper than that line because they are too deep to make a play on the bubble screen. The QB also will not count any defender that is not at least shaded on the most inside receiver. Since there is no defender shaded on the most inside receiver, the quarterback will not count any defender that is inside of the yellow line. That leaves only two defenders against the offense’s three receivers and the offense has the advantage if the QB throws the bubble screen.

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.

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