RPO, what is it and why will it give the Titans problems Saturday?
This Baltimore Ravens vs Tennessee Titans Divisional game is not a walk in the park by any means. The Tennessee Titans did not just walk on the field and take down the GOAT by playing soft and hoping Tom Brady’s age would show. It was a calculated approach by a coach who studied that organization and brought a bruising Back on the scene the NFL has not seen in a few years. What I am getting at is the Baltimore Ravens had best do their film study if they plan on advancing to the AFC Championship. I did a bit of study myself and found out what makes the RPO so unique for the Ravens. According to NFL.com, the Ravens ran RPO more than any other team this season, and as we all know, it has been successful.
First, I had to go down to the granular level of high school to figure out how this system works. I want to thank the Glazier ECLINIC for breaking the Run-Pass Option (RPO) down in such an understandable way. I want to simplify it even further by merely talking about one position or even one player the Ravens are going to try and exploit. That player this weekend is Titans OLB Harold Landry III.
I’ll place the video here so that you can all refresh yourselves on how RPO is coached and played.
I hope you all take a look at this technique from Lamar Jackson this weekend and see the matrix that is the Run-Pass Option.
Landry harassed Tom Brady all evening Saturday. The first two plays of the day were hurries from the second-year player. Blitzing from both sides of the line really hurt the Pats’ chances at converting. His play was instrumental in the Patriots sitting on the couch this week.
Should the Titans decide to use the same formula, the RPO is set up to cause problems for the Boston Native. From what the tape was telling me, the OLB dictates to whom the rock will go and where.
Read made to let RB run
The QB is making a read post-snap once the ball is held in the belly of the RB to see if the OLB’s shoulders are square. That means they are heading up-field to take an arching angle to the QB for the sack. In which case, the QB simply releases the ball and lets the RB shoot the gap. There usually is a gap in the D-line because the Left Tackle and Left Guard are double-teaming the Nose Tackle. With a Guard or even TE pulling from the strong side of the field to smash the MLB at the second level, RBs like Mark Ingram II (If healthy) and Gus Edwards may not even feel contact until reaching the third level of the Defense.
Read to pass
Let’s say Landry’s focus is on Mark or Gus again, and he decides to shoot down the line of scrimmage to attempt to stop the run. Lamar pre-snap also sees that the CB is giving Marquise “Hollywood” Brown a bit too much respect for his speed and has decided to line up 10 yards from the line of scrimmage. With Willie Snead and Mark Andrews lined up in the slot likely running delayed sticks, skinny seams or digs, Hollywood would be open for a bubble screen or even a quick slant. Upon seeing the LB sell out to stop the RB, Lamar would simply pull the rock out of the RB’s belly and fire at the slant route. The QB would also have the option of sliding down the line of scrimmage to pull the defenders to him before dumping a short pass off to the WR or receiver. We’ve seen this lately from Jackson. However, we’ve also seen him fake like he’s passing while sliding down the line, and they juke back to the inside and take off for about 12-yds.
Read to Option (QB run)
The first two scenarios are both headaches enough for any defense, but this small wrinkle is enough to make D-Coordinators throw clipboards and kick over watercoolers. That wrinkle is LJ himself. Once again, should the LB sell out to stop the RB, Lamar would simply pull the rock out of the RB’s belly and bounce outside downfield.
This scheme can run out of multiple packages such as Pistol, Shot-gun, Wish-bone, and Split-gun formations. It usually does not work out of I formation being that the play-action look is a presnap call and requires the QB to lose sight of the OLB.
I won’t pretend to be the expert on this at all. I was just so excited to get a stronger understanding of how special the scheme the Ravens are using is. I encourage you all to use this information, go take a look at previous games from the Ravens, and other RPO offenses and see if the QB gets the reads right. Should Jackson continue to keep the party going with correct reads and dynamic play, Landry and Dean Pees will be in for a long day.