Second level reads involve reading a LB or a down safety. The read can be any second level defender, inside or outside, it depends on the play (see below). The option can be a run-run or run-pass. Most second level reads are run pass options (RPOs). Second level reads are executed in the same manner as first level reads, the QB will key the read man and execute 1 of 2 options based on his actions.
Inside second level RPOs can still be executed with the “block 5 and read 6” philosophy discussed in the previous article. Outside second level RPOs often require the box to be locked, meaning there are 6 offensive players to block 6 defenders and the 7th defender can be read. In essence, you are just adding an extra player to the equation and moving the read to the next level. This is best summed up in the phrase “lock the box with 6, read 7”. This article will illustrate second level run-run options, then Inside RPOs and finally outside RPOs.
Run-Run Second Level Read
Outside Zone is the most common play that implements a run-run second level read. This is because the defense is forced to cover more ground to the outside. The BST will lock onto the back side DE, this allows the read man to become the backside inside LB. QB will give or keep the ball depending on the read man’s actions. If he fills hard for the run the QB will pull the ball and run through the area the defender vacated, if he does not fill the QB will hand off the ball. The diagrams below illustrate the difference between the 1st and 2nd level read on outside zone.
1st level read:
2nd level read:
So now we know we can lock our BST on the EMOL, which allows us to read the backside inside LB, we can get more creative with the reads, enter RPOs. RPOs on the inside LB operate in the same way as the run-run option but instead of replacing the defender with a running QB we are going to replace him with a pass to a receiver in the vacated space. In my opinion inside RPOs are more effective when packaged with plays that stress the defense to defend the outside (e.g outside zone and bucksweep out of the shotgun).
Below is a diagram of outside zone packaged with a “pop” pass, some call it a “win” route, where the slot or TE is going to “win” leverage on the outside defender and replace the space the inside LB vacated. The defense is in a 4-3 structure and the OZ is being run towards the 3 technique defender.
Below is the exact same play, the defense is aligned the same, but this time the OZ is being run towards a 1 technique defender. Therefore, if we are going to lock the BST on the EMOL, then the BSG also has to lock onto the 3 tech DL otherwise he will have a free path to the QB.
Alternatively if you know the EMOL is NOT going to rush the mesh point/QB and is either going to chase the RB or sit to prevent the QB from running the ball, then you can leave him completely unblocked. Which looks like this:
Ultimately deciding on whether to block the EMOL on inside RPOs depends on a number of factors. What run play is the pass attached to, how is the defense playing the read, is your QB comfortable leaving the EMOL unblocked and getting the ball out quick. These factors will vary from one opponent to the next and that’s where small coaching adjustments (like the ones demonstrated above) come into play.
Inside RPOs can still be executed with 5 blockers, outside RPOs require 6 blockers if we want to be sound in the box. This is where we are going to “lock the box with 6, read 7”. Below is an example of an Inside zone play run with a wing executing a “kick” block, a fade speed out quick game pass is attached. The defense is running a 4-3 and is in a cover 3 shell. As you can see, by locking the box we are able to shift our read to the next defender outside who is at the 2nd level. We are not worried about the down safety who is unblocked on the front side of the play because of the nature of the IZ run scheme the ball won’t be going outside. In a 2 high structure that defender would be at safety depth and therefore less of a threat to this type of RPO. The QB will read the outside LB and if he does not attach to the speed out the QB will keep and throw the ball, if he does the QB will hand it off.
Variations Are Endless…
The variations to RPOs are endless really and only limited by your imagination. Future articles will cover a lot more of these variations and different run plays to attach passes to. The best thing about RPOs is that it allows a QB who may not be a great runner to still put defenders in conflict with a read option play. Hopefully you find a way to successfully incorporate RPOs into your offense.
If you are interested in learning more about RPOs then I would highly recommend looking at How to Build and Package RPOs from the Michigan Football Series. This coaching video explains in detail the purpose behind running RPOs and the many flexible advantages this can bring your offense, especially if you’re looking to put defenders in conflict and have adaptive, built in answers to every play call. They provide a multitude of video examples and discuss a wide variety of play calls and packages which you can implement with your offense. Most importantly this coaching video explains how to effectively structure RPOs in a systematic way within your offense. If you are looking to take advantage of the simple, flexible and effective offensive style offered by RPOs, the crucial fundamentals and elements taught in this coaching video will be instrumental in your offensive success.
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