Zone Read and "RPO" are Two Different Things - A Minor Gripe
It’s always a pleasure joining Harry Mayes and Barrett Brooks on The Middle. Eytan Shander was not around for today’s episode, so it was the three of us having a nice long talk about the Eagles, the Sixers, and even some Philly MMA.
We also spent some time on the concept of the run/pass option, and if we’re being honest, I don’t think a lot of Eagles fans (and some media members) have a full grasp of what’s actually taking place on the field. My take is that zone read and RPO are kind of being lumped together, which contributes to a lack of understanding and a lowering of the discourse surrounding the “Eagles need to run the ball more” topic.
Does that make sense?
Just because you see the QB read the defensive player and pull the ball doesn’t mean there’s a passing component to the play. You can have two-option plays, where option 1 is a quarterback run and option 2 is a tailback run.
You saw this in the Week 2 San Francisco game, where the play-by-play commentator used the term “RPO plays” to talk about something that was not a RPO at all:
If you’re ever not sure whether something is an RPO or a zone read, look for the two clues I wrote on that graphic above. If you see the receivers running these decoy/fake/dummy routes, then obviously there’s no passing threat. And if you see the linemen blocking beyond the one-yard threshold, that’s your second tell. You cannot block further than one yard down the field on a passing play, or else you get flagged. That’s why RPO is tricky for NFL linemen, because you need straddle that line literally and figuratively.
And one final thought –
Sometimes there isn’t even a second option at all! Sometimes the quarterback isn’t reading anybody and he’s just handing the ball off. It’s a tailback run the entire way. In that case, only the offense knows whether the QB is actually making a read or not.
Anyway, thanks for listening.