The most basic read option plays involve first level reads. Usually the QB will read the end man on the line of scrimmage (EMOL). This is usually a DE or an OLB, otherwise known as the “read man”. The read man is often responsible for outside contain, meaning he is meant to stop the ball from getting outside of the box. When the ball is snapped, the QB meshes with the RB if the read man crashes down to tackle the RB the QB will pull the ball and run to the outside. The read option is a way to get defenders to “break contain”, putting them in conflict and forcing them to play extra disciplined. A read component can be attached to almost any run and I will diagram the most popular run plays with read options attached below. The key principle remains the same in all the different run schemes, the aim is to block 5 defenders with 5 linemen and to read the 6th defender in the box. So to sum up the basic read option with a single phrase it would be “block 5 and read 6”.
The read option is commonly paired with an inside zone (IZ) blocking scheme. I won’t be covering the IZ in detail in this article but basically all the linemen are blocking an area (zone) in the same direction and the ball is run between the tackles, hence the term IZ. In the diagram below the 5 OL are working to 5 defenders in the box and the QB is executing the read option on the EMOL. The RB will press the Centers block and either “bang” the ball straight ahead if a gap opens up or will cut back if the gap closes. The QB will run around the read man. The ball will go to the RB if the read man does anything but “crash down” (chasing with hips turned in towards the RB) on the RB. If the read man does crash the QB will pull the ball.
The read option is less commonly paired with outside zone (OZ). Outside Zone blocking involves all the linemen blocking an area (zone) in the same direction with the aim of getting the ball outside of the offensive tackle and on the perimeter, hence the term OZ.
The read option is also commonly paired with a tackle wrap blocking scheme. The PST and BSG will base (man) block and the PSG and C will combo block the NT to the back side LB. The BST will pull (wrap) around the combo block and lead up to the play side line backer.
Power is a gap scheme run, meaning the OL are blocking to open up a gap. The C to the PST all execute down blocks (blocking defenders “down” away from the play side). The BSG pulls up and tight to the play side. The BST will “sift” block and protect the area the BSG leaves when he pulls. Power read option is unique because the read man is on the play side where in all the other blocking schemes the read man is on the backside.
The Counter play is also a gap scheme run. The C to the PST all execute down blocks. BSG will kick out the play side DE and the BST will insert up to the play side LB.
Different But Similar…
As you can see from the diagrams above the read option can effectively be added to any run play. All the run schemes vary but for the most part the read option component stays the same. The RB executes his path based on the run scheme and the QB reads the EMOL, if he pulls the ball he runs the path to the outside. This is the most basic and well-known way to run the read option but of course it is not the only way. I will cover other ways to run the read option component in future articles.