Defending the Read Option

Discussion in 'Miami Dolphins Forum' started by Digital, Apr 28, 2013.

  1. Digital

    Digital Starter

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    In the NFL, things come in waves. Sparano was on the forefront of the Wildcat in the NFL, because he brought in an offensive coach who had run it successfully at Arkansas. Essentially, it provided an extra blocker ... or if you prefer, you can think of it as an extra lane that the defense needs to cover. The read option has the same goal--to require the defense to commit an extra man to stopping it. The read option also has the extra wrinkle of the offense forcing the defense to commit to stopping it before the offense has to commit to anything.

    Extra Man Problem
    The QB reads the defense's decision to cover the run, then identifies which player the defense intends to stop. If it's the RB, then the QB simply keeps it and runs upfield. If it's the QB, then he simply hands off to the RB. If both are covered, that means there are a lot of defenders committed to the run, and the QB has the option to pull it back and throw the ball, probably to a WR or TE who is single-covered or wide open. It really is a great system for teams that don't have great WR's or teams that don't have wonderfully accurate or great diagnosing QB's as it keeps it fairly simple. Unless the defense's secondary can lock down WR's and TE's early in the route, there should almost always be an open receiver.

    Of course, this really puts the defense on it's heels and exposes it's weakness. The tradeoff is that for you to run this system effectively, you will definitely need to let your QB run and get hit a lot. Many teams don't want to do that. But, it appears the advantages are creating a situation where QB's as RB's is going to become more common and the cost of drafted QB's is low enough for 5 years (for 1st rounders) as to make them expendable ... perhaps even disposable, unfortunately. The reality is the system is coming in vogue for at least 2013, probably longer. So, how do we defend it?

    I don't have the answer to that multi-million dollar question, but some general principles are definitely going to be in play.

    Defending Principles
    1. You must hit the QB, early, often, and ferociously. Many teams will decide that they can live with the occasional 15 yard penalty and encourage their defenders to punish the QB on those plays.

    2. You must have team speed at the outside LB's, at a minimum, to flow the play across and fill the gaps created by the extra man upon which the read option is based.

    3. Your secondary must cover for longer because the traditional pocket rush will not get there in 3 seconds. Essentially, when this becomes a pass play, it is like a roll out with all the LB's sucked up but probably not applying pressure and the far side DE/OLB taking a lot longer to get there.

    4. Traditional gap schemes must be adjusted as the point of attack has shifted to the side and the offense has 1 extra man with which to exploit defensive positioning.

    5. Overload schemes and gambling defensive techniques will backfire more often and can result in easy chunk yardage and TD's for the offense.

    6. Defenses must be devised to allow for more flexibility later in the play, because the critical decision points of the offense all happen 3-6 seconds into the play rather than at the snap or through traditional passing progression windows.

    7. Situational defenders will be exploited more than usual outside the hash marks along the line of scrimmage and everywhere in the secondary.

    8. Linebackers are the key to stopping the read option.

    Let's take point 8 first, linebackers are the key to stopping the read option. Schemes that flow defenders to stop the run usually depend upon their linebackers to make those plays to the outside. The read option is no different. Options haven't been successful in the NFL in years past because safeties were used like an extra LB to balance that numbers equation and fill the extra gap/lane and stop it. With the new passing rules, it's darn hard for WR's to get locked down without a pass interference penalty being called against the defense. So if the defense commits that extra safety into the box to effectively stop both the QB and the RB running the ball, then the QB has a great chance to throw the ball downfield and generate chunk yardage. If the safety stays back, then the running play gains pretty good yardage, and if your guy is fast, one missed tackle can be a TD. Scary thought for a defense.

    So, the defense really benefits from LB's with range to shut down that running play. Remember, it's essentially nothing more than a run around end with 2 options, and an escape hatch for the QB to turn it into a roll out pass play. If the LB's shut down the run, it becomes a simple roll out pass, which the secondary can usually handle despite the longer time the QB has to find a receiver and make a throw.

    Most defensive techniques in this situation teach the LB to take the ball carrier first. That means don't let the QB run, and force him to let the RB run outside. I expect that in the NFL this will evolve into headhunting LB's who blow up the QB regardless of whether he keeps it, hands it off, or drops back to pass. The best way to stop this play is to eliminate the key player, and while defenders have been hesitant to do it thus far, I think that will change as it becomes more and more prominent. Another option might be to always take away the RB and force the QB to run it every time, thus maximizing the punishment the QB takes and hopefully dissuading the offense from running that play very often. Or maybe run a spy who is responsible for the QB on any read option plays so the LB can concentrate on the RB and let the spy blow up the QB. But, its usually simpler than that, so just telling the LB to take the ball carrier might be the defensive coordinator's preference. So, how do we stop the RB?

    Well there are many different ways to handle this. I'm sure the brilliant minds on the defensive side of the ball in the NFL will come up with a solid way to do it, whether it's by using a spy, a nickel back, zone blitz with unexpected coverage drops, or odd formations. Not really sure what those creative mad scientists will devise. But, I'm pretty confident that it will be LB driven and require good speed and shedding technique to shut down the run. Once the running option is shut down, the read option becomes just another play.

    One possibility will be a different formation. That might be why we completely revamped our LB corps.

    Coyle prefers a 43 and we tended to play that more often last year, but we didn't play it exclusively. We had hybrid looks. My guess is that we will have a much heavier dose of hybrid 34 looks and that it is at least in part because Coyle thinks he knows how to defend the read option. Let's face it, the Jets could nott have a worse QB situation, the new GM isn't married to the coach, and there's a great chance a new coach comes in next year or two. If not, they'll definitely need to find a way for Rex Ryan to generate offense with poor offensive personnel while Idzik rights their financial ship. I fully expected the Jets to try some read option. IMHO, there was only 1 good read option QB in the draft, and he was the only one that was drafted in round 1, EJ Manuel. I just didn't expect him to be drafted by Buffalo.

    That means we probably have 2 read option teams in our division, and 4 of the 6 divisional games will have at least an element of read option. We must figure out a way to stop it.

    I think that's the reason we drafted heavy on defense this year. The Salary Cap savings dictated revamping the LB corps next year anyway, and this simply allowed us to address it this year in anticipation of the read option craze. Guys with speed like Wheeler, Jordan and Jenkins have the range to cover the read option running. Someone like Jordan, in particular, has the length to cover both the QB and RB late into the play. With good man corners and a ferocious safety like Reshad Jones, we can really punish QB's that are fragile, lack accuracy, or are slow decision makers.

    My belief is that Coyle will be overhauling this defense to get tighter man covering CB's that generate takeaways, and a more LB-driven scheme that takes advantage of their speed to create pressure on traditional drop back passers as well as the range and instincts to diagnose plays and stifle read option schemes and pistol formation plays. I'm not sure what Coyle has in mind, but we're definitely collecting the horses to run a fast LB-driven defense and generate takeaways. It should be fun to watch.
     
    number1fin likes this.
  2. Morey161

    Morey161 Banned Hammered

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    Simple. Hit the QB very hard and knock him out and when teams realize that their Qb's will be hurt it will stop.
     
  3. eger

    eger Starter

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    I really hate the read option in college football, moreso in the NFL. The key to stopping it a fast defense.
     
  4. sinPHIN

    sinPHIN A True Fan

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    its actually easy to stop. im a defensive coordinator at the high school level and that's all we see. pros just aren't use to seeing it. it will be washed up in the next year or so just like the wild cat
     
  5. SJSharKFinFan

    SJSharKFinFan Active Member

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    Digital

    Thank you for this amazing write-up. You put great effort and alot of analysis into this piece. I would like to recognize that.

    For me, I think Nfl teams should apply the stand-up philosophy that the Jets use where the offense don't know who is rushing or dropping back. Next the corners should get into the face of the WRs and keep jamming and mirroring until the 5 yards is up then trail for as long as possible. There should be 1 linebacker primarily as spy to cover the TE if he leaks or the QB if he tucks. All the other linebackers should shoot the gaps with reckless abandonment. Nfl rules protect the QB not so much the RB. Every time put a good legal hit on the RB whether he has the ball or not does wonders over the course of the game.

    This philosophy is to not let the offense dictate the defense. The defense should be predators thus there should never be any hesitation. Don't analysis, play fast.

    The shortest distance is straight ahead. Another method to prevent the read-option is have 3 big bodies like soliai, terrerance cody, or star lotulelei occupy double teams. Have them stay compact with middle push, this cogs up most of the lanes thus forcing the QB or Rb east-west instead north-south. Fast linebackers can cut-off the angles to the sidelines minizing gains to 5-6 yards. Of course, 5-6 yards adds up pretty quick and offenses that run this style would happily take those yards each time.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 28, 2013
  6. rickd13

    rickd13 Scout Team

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    It's easy to defend in high school because guys that can run and throw like Colin Kaepernick and RGIII aren't playing in high school.
     
  7. sinPHIN

    sinPHIN A True Fan

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    so rg3 and colin aren't playing the best players in the world. nfl is a lot more even than high school. in hs you ether have the athletes or you don't. scheme wins at all levels
    do we have guys like wake or anyone defending ether? you ether know how to defend it our you don't. zone read is a run, and when you have kids who are slow as hell playing d1 prospects and still stoping them, im guessing that's scheme
     
  8. Digital

    Digital Starter

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    Thanks SJSharKFinFan.

    Yeah, that would be pretty good on occasion or if you knew the read option was coming. I guess the biggest risk might be that if the offense could guess you were doing it, they could audible into something else, like a power up the middle or a play-action pass maybe? Definitely the sort of innovative technique that might work though. The chess game continues.
     
  9. dlockz

    dlockz Hall Of Famer

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    The read option is a so much better offense than the wildcat because the wildcat teams know u will not pass and hurt them.
     
  10. LANGER72

    LANGER72 A True Fan

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    The key to stopping it is outside contain, discipline down field, shutting off the preferred gaps, and interior penetration. The QB will have to throw it away, or buy time jumping around like a deer next to the highway.
     
  11. LANGER72

    LANGER72 A True Fan

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    You have to have the horses up front to penetrate and disrupt. If the team running read option is controlling the LOS...it will be a long day for the defense
     
  12. LDaniel7

    LDaniel7 FinHeaven VIP Finheaven VIP

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    The most dangerous read option team in the NFL right now is San Fran -- and this is because of 1. their HORSES up front, 2. Colin Kapaernick's talent built for read option, and 3. skill level at WR and TE, and to lesser degree, RB.

    San Fran is simply the most talented team in the NFL roster wise, top to bottom. But this year is their year, because next year teams will be adapting personnel, much like the Phins are doing this year. It just takes time to get the right personnel, and wholesale changes such as the Phins are making are hard for teams to do -- and it's so hard that only one side can really be done in one year, and this not completely... hopefully our O will be remade next year, w. speed and suddenness at all skill positions. But right now, we have to realize what they're doing on D, and be grateful.

    Just mho,

    LD
     
  13. catch22

    catch22 New Mexico Fin Fan

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    fascinating read. good stuff!!
     
  14. Digital

    Digital Starter

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    Thanks man.
     
  15. Digital

    Digital Starter

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    Yeah, they are particularly nasty because of Vernon Davis. With that huge line and strong running game, they've already got the 8th man in the box defensively very often just to stop the basic run plays. So, if they get the right defense, they can clear out a side by having their WR's drag coverage to the other side, have Vernon Davis run an intermediate route to the empty side and run the read option to the empty side also. That usually means an LB is pulled away to cover Davis and then caught in no-man's land without enough help over the top to stay with Davis and too far away from the line of scrimmage to stop the option run at the point of attack. If the LB stays with Davis you have a mismatch coverage and an option run open for someone. If the LB breaks off coverage to defend the option run, Kaepernick should have an easy open intermediate pass to Davis, and if the help over the top isn't in position, an easy TD.

    When the West Coast Offense was first implemented by Bill Walsh not many people really understood how easy it makes things for a QB. The stats a QB can put up in that offense as far as completion percentage and yardage are ridiculous. Tons of short easy throws to big WR's and the QB gets credit for all the run after catch yardage these WR's generate. The read option is even easier for a QB. In addition to all the WCO stuff, it gets receivers wide open to the point of appearing completely uncovered in the 5-15 yard range that are nearly impossible to miss. You can see why so many QB's are drooling to run this system.
     
  16. NBP81

    NBP81 Yippi ka yay mother******! Donator

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    While I agree the read option was featured a lot last season, especially with the Niners and the Skins, I don't think it was the main reason we made those specific moves at the LB position. We added speed no doubt, and rushing the passer ability dramatically. Now that screams a lot more focus on stopping the Tom Bradys and Mannings of this world with freak TEs than concentrating on the new in vogue way to mask your QB's deficiencies. Which is exactly what the spread option read is. Don't get me wrong, it can be useful, just like the wildcat was for us, but in the end, you get in the playoffs and at some point you face a defense that wont fall for it. At that point, you'll have to rely on your QB, without his spread option mask...
     
  17. JTC111

    JTC111 Viva la resistance!!!

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    It's all relative. Yes, it's true that you're not going to find hs qbs that play like CK or RG3, but you're also not going to find hs defenses that play like the Seahawks or the 49ers.
     
  18. LikeUntoGod

    LikeUntoGod The Oracle

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    You cannot compare the Wildcat to the read option.

    Much like stopping the old options and wishbone (i'm so old I was a Wishbone QB in hs) one tactic is to 'simply" hit the QB often. Good plan until they run all over you with it. If the read option is "so easy" to stop then why is so many hs and college teams using it?

    It worked pretty well for that Tebow guy. But then he is the only QB I've ever seen who can take those hits.
     
  19. uk_dolfan

    uk_dolfan Founder of the FH Adam Gase fan club Moderator Finheaven VIP

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    Its very simple... Hit the QB very very hard, very often.

    Like Pagano said, he wont run the option because the city would run him out of the state if he risked Andrew Lucks health.

    Let RG3 run and retire in a few years... Luck and Tannehill can carry the draft class just fine.
     
  20. LikeUntoGod

    LikeUntoGod The Oracle

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    lol, so simple..............

    p.s that is also the "easy" way to beat the Patriots with Tom Brady, all we do is hit him hard all game long.

    I think the phrase is "easier said then done".
     
  21. uk_dolfan

    uk_dolfan Founder of the FH Adam Gase fan club Moderator Finheaven VIP

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    Tom Brady doesnt run up the middle of the field painting a target on his chest and yelling come get me.

    The gimmick worked this year like the innitial wildcat. Now these runnings qbs will be killed.
     
  22. LikeUntoGod

    LikeUntoGod The Oracle

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    Not every QB is built like Tim :)
     
  23. NBP81

    NBP81 Yippi ka yay mother******! Donator

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    yeah but Tim is not a QB...
     
  24. Ikema

    Ikema FinHeaven VIP

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    LOL, I initially took the title of this post as "justifying" the read option!
     
  25. Etuoo33

    Etuoo33 Seasoned Veteran

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    As soon as the QB's start getting sent to the emergency room this phase will stop, many team do not have a quality backup. After a few hard hits on the star players coaches will decide that the read option that exposes the key to the O to injury, they will move away from it.
     
  26. Digital

    Digital Starter

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    True, but I think Cam Newton and EJ Manuel have the build to play the read option system at a relatively higher level of healthy for more years than the other QB's like Griffon and Kaepernick.
     
  27. Fins_of_Fury

    Fins_of_Fury In a contract year

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    I just feel like predicating your entire offense off of the read option is not sustainable, with enough film teams will figure you out. Also, your QB is the key to making this work and if he is getting crushed.....then where does that leave you? I think you need to minimize your QB's option to run, only tell him to break it loose if it is absolutely necessary. I will say that it is damn exciting to watch these read option teams though!
     
  28. Dsteve

    Dsteve Well-Known Member

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    It works in college because of the disparity of talent. stacked teams with speed and blue chip prospects run all over weaker teams.

    The 49ers were effective because they are generally more talented than the rest of the NFL. You run into a good defense or good coaching, that garbage doesn't work. I'd be interested to know how teams faired running that against the patriots.
    You're not blocking a player with this read option. That player, after realizing he's unblocked should blast the qb.

    I'll admit that this offense can control the clock if you're already a good running tea, but can you live on 14-21 points a game, see broncos with teblow, against teams like the packers, pats, ravens, 49ers and every other explosive offense that puts crazy points up in bunches? If you honestly think this is a viable offense going forward in the NFL, your football IQ isn't very high.
     
  29. Geforce

    Geforce FinHeaven VIP

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    Not entirely true. The 49ers do have a lot of talent but their version of the read option or Pistol Offense worked because Kaepernick can throw the ball effectively.

    The 49ers did run their Pistol Offense against the Patriots and for most of the game had their way with them.
     
  30. greasyObnoxious

    greasyObnoxious I love lamp Finheaven VIP Donator

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    excellent post. the bold part is where i disagree though. it's usually the backside DE that crashes down into the RB and the OLB will scoop in behind the DE to take on the QB. that's how teams defended the read option most successfully. if executed well, the QB doesn't have a lot of time to pass it and, if matched up against an athletic OLB, not a lot of wiggle room.
     
  31. Phindog

    Phindog A True Fan

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    Coaches have always tried to implement the R-O it in some shape or form.Randall Cunningham-Kordell "slash" Stewart-Michael Vick. Now Wilson-RGIII-Colin Kaepernick. Wildcat is pretty much a gadget play.Miami had the right personel at the right time to use it longer than any pro team would dare.

    This year and next defensive Co-ordinators will slow down the R O down. It wont be reduced to the wildcat but it will be slowed down by the methods above.Teams must make the decision on how much they want to risk their QB,the most important position on the team.

    Jets grabbed Geno Smith I'm guessing to implement the butt fumble read-option.
     
  32. iwastherein1972

    iwastherein1972 Well-Known Member

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    I am hoping that as teams shut it down at the NFL level in the next few years, that there will be a trickle-down effect to the NCAA and to HS where it begins to fade out at those levels as well.

    There is entirely TOO much emphasis on the QB-as-human-highlight-film-wannabe at those levels right now. I prefer having great athletes at ALL skill positions and running a more traditional pocket-distribution offense. QB (passing) skills are eroding among young players today.
     
  33. Digital

    Digital Starter

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    Now that Tannehill has started using the read option, it seems clear the Dolphins think it is a challenging offense.
     
  34. sinPHIN

    sinPHIN A True Fan

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    defensive ends must be discipline. the tackle or te will not block them they have to stay square and squeeze
     
  35. LDaniel7

    LDaniel7 FinHeaven VIP Finheaven VIP

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    Tannehill is more more than a read option QB -- although he has the skills to run it.

    Once skill players develop around Tannehill he will be hard to game plan against.

    LD
     
  36. Awsi Dooger

    Awsi Dooger A True Fan

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    There's very little read option in the NFL. It's a read-option look with predetermined aim. Basically a different type of play fake. But very effective because of all the separation it enables. Defenders freezing and uncertain. As much as I love a college team like Stanford, their style creates congestion. Against equal talent the congestion often fails when the splits are nearly non-existent and the short yardage plays blown up. That happened in the Rose Bowl against Michigan State and last weekend against USC.

    The read option designs at any level abuse weak and moderate defenses because it essentially widens the field and extends the play due to all the hesitation. The extra few feet are there and extra half second is there. Top attacking defenses that get penetration don't have nearly as much trouble with it. That linebacker off the edge is not going to stop. He's hitting somebody and more often than not it will hurt, either the play or the player. Force the offense to consistently make the correct call.

    Satele didn't suddenly become a powerful effective drive blocker. He looked very good for the bulk of the game last week because the inside read plays to his strengths, especially when the opponent is sitting back as New England was. Absorbing instead of dictating. I was annoyed that we got away from those plays for seemingly no reason. Why pass to Lamar Miller on two consecutive plays deep in Patriot territory instead of forcing them to defend the inside read?

    Kaepernick is the only NFL quarterback who is a legit run option out of that scheme. Two of his strides are enough to circle the perimeter and create a dangerous play. Everybody else is ducking and sliding. Wilson runs more bootlegs than read option. He gets a few vital yards then ho-hum takes a seat.

    The designs work in the NFL because those inside read running plays have the league on its heels. There's more room than rightfully should be there, given the bulk of the linemen. Consequently the play fakes work and suddenly the quarterback is dropping into a clean pocket, the defenders briefly paralyzed. Does anyone actually believe our offensive linemen are as good as they looked last week? As I posted in preseason, this type of offense won't work against everyone but we aren't in a position to care about the handful of defenses that might abuse us.

    It's basically a bully offense, but one that came around at the perfect time, with very few premier defenses and an emphasis on offense in general, along with rules changes coddling the offense.

    In the NFL there are a heck of a lot more option routes on pass plays than true option of run or pass.
     
  37. DearbornDolfan

    DearbornDolfan Seasoned Veteran

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    There is no such thing as the read option. It's either the zone-read or the option. In either case, something that apparently hasn't been picked up by others is that one of the keys to either is that you deliberately leave the most dangerous player in the front seven unblocked and key the read off of him. Essentially by forcing a decision you take him out of the play without having to commit a blocker and that allows a blocker to move upfield and seal off a running lane; done right that upfield block creates congestion which forces backside pursuit to take poor or long upfield angles and thereby creates extra yards. Also, there are no "preferred lanes". Zone-read is just a zone run with the extra wrinkle of giving the QB the choice of keeping it. The principles of the inside and outside zone play remain largely the same.

    Finally, I don't agree with Awsi. I think Tannehill is making legitimate reads, he just never kept it because the Patriots played in a disciplined manner and the backside contain forced the inside zone run. In the one half I did get to watch, I never noticed an outside zone run, which is a nightmare of its own to adjust to if you're a defense and you've never seen it from the team you're playing. Then there's the play-action off of either. There is also the triple option, with its myriad variations, and play-actions off of those. It will succeed if OCs treat it like a legitimate offense and not a gadget play; it will fail if OCs don't.
     

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