It is important when designing an offense it is important to have “built-in answers” and always stay one step ahead of the defense. This is no different in the Indoor Football League, where defensive coordinators scheme weekly to take away their opponents top run plays. One way to take advantage of a disciplined defense is to employ Run-Pass Options (RPOs) into the offensive playbook.
Run-Pass Options have become commonplace on fields across the country from the NFL to the prep level, and they have started to make their way indoors to cause conflict in defensive assignments. In theory RPOs take two or three schemes and combine them into one play to take advantage of both aggressive and disciplined defensive units. In each RPO, there will typically be a pre-snap look for the quarterback paired with a 1st level read, and often a 2nd or 3rd level read post-snap. By taking a base run concept such as the zone read and combining it with a quick screen concept or quick game route the defense can be tasked with defending the entire field leaving an area vulnerable to be attacked by the offense.
Lets look at an RPO concept involving an inside run concept with a quick bubble screen attached to the play from a trips formation.
This is a very simple installation as they are taking a base run concept such as the zone read, and combining with the simple bubble screen to the inside receiver in the trips alignment with the two outside receivers blocking "most dangerous man" blocking principles. This is a simple install for the offense as this is not a “new” play concept, but one that combines the rules and execution of two existing schemes within the offense.
The play will begin with the quarterback executing his “1st level read” on the backside defensive end. As the offensive line and running back execute the zone read scheme the quarterback will decide based on the defensive ends reaction if he will give the ball to the back or execute a pull read and keep the ball on the perimeter. If the defensive end widens or comes up the field, the quarterback will hand the football off to the running back on the interior run play.
Should the defensive end give the quarterback a pull read, he will immediately get his eyes to his “2nd level read” which is the #3 defender from the wall to the bubble screen side. If this defender attacks the box and is disciplined in his run fit, the quarterback will throw the ball immediately to the bubble screen as the offense now has leverage to the side of the bubble screen.
If this defender inverts with the bubble or if it's a man coverage situation the quarterback will keep the football outside in the area vacated by this defender. You can quickly see that when executed properly the offense has an answer for any defensive reaction post-snap.
As we covered with the Zone Read paired with a quick screen, an effective RPO can also be designed by combining a base running concept with the threat of a quick pass on the perimeter.
In this situation, the quarterback will execute his “1st level read” on the defensive end and if given a pull read he will pull the football and attack the perimeter. This can be easily paired with an existing quick passing game concept that can attack second and third level defenders in the same manner as was done with the bubble screen. By attaching quick screens and quick passing game concepts to the zone read, this allows teams the ability to effectively run the zone read and force the defense to defend the entire field even when they may not have a quarterback who is a true running threat.
RPOs are a great way for an IFL offense to protect their basic running plays, and ensure that the defense is always WRONG in their reactions.