Defenses work to stop the read option

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When a quarterback or other offensive player has a big season out of the blue (typically as a rookie), defenses spend the next offseason obsessed with coming up with ways to stop him.  (Or, in the case of the 1999 Packers, devoting the first three rounds of the draft to finding guys who can cover Randy Moss.)

This year, it’s not just a player that will be forcing defensive coaches to burn the midnight oil in order to avoid getting toasted in 2013.  The read option has become the scheme that defenses will be committed to stopping next season.

It’s a simple concept.  The quarterback begins the process of handing the ball to a running back.  The quarterback reads the defensive end’s movement.  If the defensive end reacts as if the ball will be given to the running back, the quarterback takes it back and runs through the spot where the defensive end was.  If the defensive end stays homes or comes at the quarterback, the running back gets the ball.

Peter King of Sports Illustrated recently explained the manner in which defenses will react over the course of an offseason, pointing out that teams will be looking for cornerbacks who can cover without safety help, so that safeties will be able to support the effort to stop the read option.  Likewise, defensive ends will be asked to take a little steam out of their effort to crush the quarterback and to spend more time studying his movements.  Also, linebackers will be expected to balance preparing for the quarterback to let go of the ball that has been stuffed into the tailback’s gut and reacting to the possibility that the quarterback will yank the ball out and throw it to a receiver.

The Colts, whose desire to keep quarterback Andrew Luck healthy means they won’t be running the read option, nevertheless believe they can stop it.  Coach Chuck Pagano told Greg Cosell of NFL Films at the annual Maxwell Club awards dinner that defensive coaches don’t believe the read option will be a problem, once they have a chance to study it.

And here’s where offensive coordinators have an opportunity to think multiple moves ahead in the game of coaching chess.  As defenses reconfigure to stop the read option, other openings necessarily will arise.

As Cosell accurately observes, it’s still too early to know how the read option will develop and evolve, and whether it’s a fad like the CB radio or a new frontier like the Internet.

25 responses to “Defenses work to stop the read option

  1. Don’t throw away those Griffin/Wilson/Kaepernick jerseys, some day they will be collector’s items. You can swap them with other old guys at Read Option Conventions out at the fairgrounds in Iowa.

  2. The Patriots figured it out within the season in 2008. It’s called penetration. Force the person with the ball to make a decision. The rest is fundamental tackling.

  3. Its a gimmick that will be figured out and stopped.

    RGIII and his one good wheel will flame out within 3 years.
    Kaperlongneck will be exposed next season and will revert to his true calling as backup QB within 3 years
    Russell Wilson is the real deal and will thrive and only become better each season

  4. Tim Tebow and the Broncos were ridiculed for running the read option in 2011. It was actually somewhat effective, even with Tebow’s shortcomings when he had to throw. Now the read option is the next big thing with teams drafting mobile and athletic quarterbacks. Who would ever of thought that Tebow would of started a trend. He’ll be remembered as a pioneer.

  5. All you need is gap discipline. There is no need for a DE to be trying to make a play on the other side of the field. If the QB hands it off and then acts like he still has the ball, knock him in to next week

  6. Not sure all teams can say thus but Seattle uses this only in about 20 percent of their offense it’s meant to give an defense extra responsibilities to slow them down on other areas of the game.

    Seattle uses it more to pass the ball or run for positive yards then get down and slide or go out if bounds. Qbs who try and take it to the house are the ones who will get hit un necessarily it pisses defenders off when Wilson takes his losses and slides even behind the line of scrimmage but he does exactly that.

    He rarely takes shots, but as long as teams use this like Seattle as solely a wrinkle in the offense WITH a QB who can read coverages AND pass it will last. Other teans using it to on a higher percentage of plays will loose a qb or too.

    Easy to get confused but the read option will die but using it like a play action run pass option will never die. Just learn to do it or have the athletes on defense to stop it!

  7. Scouts are combing the globe for 12 year old kids who already have 6 foot wing spans. Capable of simultaneously wrapping up two people, one with each arm.

  8. How is it relevant at all to say that teams figured out how to stop an offense that had ronnie brown at qb??? And to say that teams got wise to denver’s tebow offense is a bit misleading, considering how terrible that offense was to begin with. Teams will surely be more prepared for kaep/wilson/rg3, but there wont be a simple solution like “blitz both olb’s every play!”. All 3 guys throw the ball well and far more often than they run. The worst idea ive heard is to have the d ends stand up and wait to see who has the ball, then go tackle him. That’s ridiculous, whichever guy does have it is gonna run right by before the defender can react.

  9. Its a lot easier said then done. These guys have some really good play fakes, if you look at a lot of RG3 he has a ridiculous play fake, most of the time you cent tell if he has the ball or Alfred Morris. Or whether he is going to run the ball or throes it. And both him and Wilson are pretty fast, and RG3s speed isn’t going to fall all that much, and even if it somewhat us slower, he’ll still be quicker then most qbs, considering he was the fastest qb on the league, and when you can run faster then the DE or LB then you can get to the outside and gain yards and sometimes break big runs like all 3 qbs did a few times. It’s really easy to say how to stop something, but its bot so easy to actually execute it. That play fake can go several different ways and most defenses don’t have the entire personal to stop it.

  10. Watch how the Ravens played it in the Superbowl. They committed to rushing at the QB only after the first quarter. That makes the read option a one dimensional play. Keapernick’s only choice was to hand it off, then the Ravens only had to worth about stopping the RB. That is probably the only way to stop it. When you have QBs throwing as accurately as RGIII orW lison, then making them as one dimensional as possible is the only answer.

  11. I am so sick and tired of people acting like this is new. It is simply old plays dusted off and recycled. All DC’s have to do is watch the successful college defenses and apply with better athletes.

  12. the read option will go the way of other gimmicks like play action, the draw, and the screen pass…

  13. And the offenses will find new ways to outsmart the defenses.

    The only two offenses that coordinators neglected to evolve were the Wildcat and Rob Chudzinski’s 2012 offense in Carolina.

  14. The read option will be been ended the same way they’ve been stopped since the late 70’s when the wishbone, and Houston Veer offense came into vogue. You simple hit the QB hard EVERY time they run it whether they have the ball or not.

    From HS on up every coach assigns players to the various options. What I didn’t see this season in the NFL was the age old tactic of hammering the QB. Players were almost genteel with them. That won’t happen again next year. The refs can’t protect them. So after getting their bell’s rung 5 or 6 plays it will become less popular.

    Owners aren’t going to be making those huge investments into QB’s only to watch them on the sideliunes collecting huge checks.

  15. This is like saying defences will work to out scheme the bootleg or play action. The zone read is just another way of holding the backside defender on a zone play and zone plays have been around for decades.

    Atlanta forced Kaep to hand the ball off and look what happened there! In the Superbowl the Pistol gained 6 yards a play and the Ravens answer was to put 3 guys up front that needed to be double teamed.

  16. Mantastic nailed it… I would drill the qb everytime and give up a defender to do it. It is a running play so it is not a late hit, or a defenseless player.

    I would send my defender with one assignment. Hit the qb. If you leave the qb to make the play, you come off the field for a series. Hit the qb, that is all you do.

  17. My hatred is growing. This is a run action set up. Each play designed to be a pass, unless the qb options to release the ball for the run .

    The OL keeps aggressive pass sets, the qb never looks at the running back but reads the first two passing options.

    That takes about 2.5, get the LBs there at 2

    I’m a defensive coordinator, this trend just stopped

  18. Hit that quarterback, every time you can get there.

    In the playoffs the Falcons had a linebacker there to greet him – unfortunately their downfield coverage suffered as a result.

    I believe if the QB is faking a keep, whether he follows through or not is irrelevant to the fact that the LB should be knocking the snot out of him every chance he gets.

  19. The west coast offense was a gimmick too. Only time will tell how effective the read option is. As far as the league looking for CBs that don’t need help from the Safety, I’m pretty sure they’ve already been doing that for at least 50 years.

  20. DCs will have schemes to deal with the read/pistol/whatever offense. Just a new wrinkle in the chess game between the Xs and Os. This is why Head Coaches and DCs get that extra piece of raisin pie every day.

  21. “Or, in the case of the 1999 Packers, devoting the first three rounds of the draft to finding guys who can cover Randy Moss.”
    Ron Wolf was too “Reactionary” – didn’t have Dline Depth in Superbowl 32 – Draft a DE for the sake of drafting a Dlineman – pass up on Randy Moss – spend the next draft picking up Corners – missing out on quality players…. smh

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