A great way to attack defenses while using heavier personnel groupings is through the use of RPOs. Just when the defense expects the quarterback to hand the ball to the running back, he reads a defender and throws the ball out to a skill player in space. Today, we take a look at five examples of RPOs NFL teams ran out of heavy personnel groupings (21, 12, 13 personnel) during the 2018 season.
12 Personnel - Inside Zone/Stick RPO
The offense comes out in a 2x2 formation with a tight end out wide to the right and two wide receivers to the left. The tight end motions into a wing beside the in-line tight end. At the snap, the offensive line blocks inside zone to the left. The receivers run a mirrored Stick concept. The quarterback has the ability to throw the stick to either side based on the pre-snap leverage of the defense or hand the ball off.
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The quarterback sees the corners to the left side of the formation playing off, so he bangs the speed out to the No. 1 receiver for a gain of eight yards.
12 Personnel - Outside Zone/Slant Flat RPO
The offense comes out in a 2x2 formation with two tight ends to the left and two wide receivers to the right in tight splits. The slot receiver to the right motions out wide to the same side. At the snap, the offensive line, tight ends and running back run outside zone to the left. The quarterback is tasked with reading the post-snap movement of the defender over No. 2 (strong safety here) and throwing or handing off based on his movement.
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A miscue happens up front and the quarterback gets hit as he throws the ball. Although the safety stays inside, the quarterback anticipates the slant coming into the window behind him and hits the receiver with a perfectly placed ball in stride. The receiver races up the sideline for a 58-yard touchdown.
12 Personnel - Outside Zone/Double Slant RPO
The offense comes out in a 2x2 formation with two tight ends to the right and two receivers to the left. At the snap, the offensive line, tight ends and running back run outside zone to the right. The receivers run a double slant concept on the backside. The quarterback reads the backside inside linebacker and throws or hands off based on his movement.
The quarterback sees the Will linebacker read and react to the run action, so he pulls the ball and throws the slant to the No. 2 receiver. Although the defender over No. 2 had inside leverage on the slot and the ball would have gone to the open No. 1 receiver on the outside slant in an ideal world, the slot catches the contested pass for a gain of seven yards.
13 Personnel - Duo/Slant RPO
The offense comes out in a 3x1 set with 3 tight ends to the right and one receiver backside. At the snap, the offensive line, tight ends and running back run Duo to the right. The quarterback is tasked with reading the backside safety and throwing the slant to the backside receiver or handing off based on his pre-snap leverage.
With the safety creeping down into the slant window just before the snap, the QB turns, hands the ball off to the running back and the play results in a loss of two yards due to a missed block by a tight end.
21 Personnel - Inside Zone/Swing RPO
The offense comes out in a 2x1 formation with two wide receivers to the right, an in-line nub tight end to the left and split backs in the backfield next to the quarterback in shotgun. The left back motions out of the backfield to the right and continues into a swing pattern. At the snap, the offensive line, tight end and running back run inside zone to the left. The quarterback reads the unblocked defensive end for his give/keep read. If the end crashes and he keeps the ball, he can throw the swing based on the movement of the backside inside linebacker.
The end does not crash hard so the quarterback hands the ball off and carries out his run fake. The running back gains three yards on the play.
Overall, RPOs out of heavy personnel groupings are a great way to get the ball in playmakers’ hands in space. Defenses often pack the box and expect run against heavier personnel and formations so giving the quarterback the option to throw on a called run play can be the difference between a first down and a loss of yards. Getting the ball to your best player in space is a great call in any situation and RPOs give you the ability to do so.
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