Defending RPO'S

RPO'S, That Dirty Offensive World

Today we are going to talk about adjustments to your base defense that can help you defend vs. the run pass option plays on offense.  First we need to define what run pass options are.  For me there are 2 different run pass option theories the offense can use.  The first one is based on numbers and leverage and is more of a pre snap read. I want to focus on the second one which is a post snap decision which puts the conflict on a defender with a run and pass responsibility.  These are usually better vs 2 High safety structures and zone concepts.  I will talk about some of our adjustments because we base out of 2 high looks and zone theories.

Defender's With 2 Jobs
The thing that makes defense a little tougher to play than offense is the fact you may have a run assignment and a pass assignment to execute, and you need to read the offense before figuring out which one you will be executing.  Offensive players usually know their assignment when the play gets called so they play faster.  Now within the rules of the game the RPO is making it even tougher on defenses because they are executing run plays with the oline and throwing passes at the same time.  In the old days you used to be able to tell players to read high hat or low hat for run or pass.  Now you get hard aggressive low hat run reads and the offense is throwing the ball behind you.  Lets face it, the 3 yard downfield rule for lineman is such a grey area you can not fully rely on officials making that call.  We need to structure some things into our base package that helps us defend these concepts. If you are a split field coverage team like we are one of the adjustments you can make is playing man to the side of the RPO, and zone away from the running back.  Man concepts certainly restrict the RPO theory because the man player is not conflicted with a run pass assignment.  In other words your safety playing man on a slot receiver will not be tied into your run fit.  This means there is no true "CONFLICT" on that player.  But you don't want to always be in man across the board because it will lead to giving up bigger plays.  If you want to stay in true zone concepts you can use line stunts to gap exchange your run fits and leave your apex lbers closer to their pass assignment.  You can also go to 1 high structures which will make it tougher on the offense to block the 6 players in the box. 

The last thing i want to discuss is using pressure as a changeup vs. RPO teams.  Adding a 5th rusher and changing the coverage behind the pressure can really muddy the waters for RPO teams.  I really like pressuring from the side of the back vs. RPO teams.  Im hoping to get the player they want to conflict a free run at the QB.  Let's remember that RPO football is really option football so they are going to leave somebody unblocked.  If its a second level defender they are reading then adding that player to the rush can get you a free run at the QB.  Now you can change the coverage looks behind the pressure.  It can be 3 Under 3 Deep, 4 Under 2 Deep, or Man Free.  Those are 3 very nice change ups that can mess with the QBS ability to process where to distribute the ball.  

Keep in mind that these are only slight wrinkles that can help you slow down the RPO teams.  If they have the marker last they can draw up other things to beat these wrinkles.  It is a constant chess match between the offense and the defense.  Have your adjustments, fit runs, get off blocks and make tackles. There is no magic dust.