Run-Pass Option 101: The B Gap Defender

In the first post in our Run-Pass Option 101 series, coach Todd Greenwell introduced the basics of the RPO. Now, coach dives into how offenses identify and attack the B Gap Defender in the RPO concept.

Once the offense knows where the reinforcements are coming from, it must be ready to attack the defense in the weakened area. To illustrate how this would work the power read will be the run play.

To keep a plus one advantage in the run game against a 6 man run box the offense must leave one defender unblocked and make sure the seventh does not enter the run box.  To achieve this I will use the power read as an example. In this example of the power read the end man on the line of scrimmage will be the read.   The guard opposite the read will be the power insert blocker.  He will pull and lead into the opposite B gap, between guard and tackle. The runningback is going to run an outside zone track and the Quarterback will read the movement of the defensive end. If he widens with the runningback, the quarterback will keep and follow the pulling guard into the B gap.

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As long as the offense can gain yards making the end man wrong, it will continue to run the power read. However, the defense will take cues from the offensive movements and defend the play differently.  The downhill defender and the extra defender are the enemy to the offense so the offense must be able to locate and diagnose what the defense is doing.  A common adjustment for the defense is to have the end man crash down and collapse the B gap when the tackle executes a down block. The linebacker on the same side will then move downhill to the line of scrimmage  and have a great inside out angle on the running back. Because the defensive end crashed, the quarterback would give to the runningback and the linebacker is waiting on the running back.  This is often called a “gap exchange”

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The offensive answer is to execute a run pass option on the linebacker executing the gap exchange with the defensive end. The linebacker is abandoning any pass responsibility as soon as he gets his read. So, the offense will execute the same power read look and will place a slant route  behind him. The read will change from the end man on the line to the linebacker. As the play begins, the defensive end blocks himself by crashing into the B gap. The quarterback is reading the linebacker. If he comes downhill, the quarterback will pull and throw the slant route into the empty hook to curl zone. The receiver must still win inside space and avoid running into the area defended by a safety.

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Now, the offense is using the training of the defense against it.  If the defense is not using a gap exchange another cue the defense will rely on is to follow a pulling guard to the point of attack. This linebacker will now be getting downhill making it tougher for the tackle to root him out of the running hole.  To slow this downhill defender down the offense can make him the read player for the quarterback run game, or it can make him the read player for a run pass option.  A common passing concept to attach to the power read is the stick passing concept.

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At the snap, the quarterback will execute the  zone power read. If the linebacker vacates his B gap responsibility the quarterback will pull and throw to the #3 receiver who should be sitting in open grass.  The lesson to learn about RPOs is they are a tool to slow down defenders. If the defense wishes to follow a guard or come to an immediate run fit when it sees a down block, the offense needs to have a pass to attack the area being vacated.

About coach Greenwell
Todd Greenwell has coached youth, middle school and high school football in Louisville, KY for 15 years.  Football is his vice, and he is currently coaching freshman defensive backs at Louisville, Trinity High School.  Trinity plays in the highest class in Kentucky and has 23 State titles in 58 years of football. Make sure you follow him on Twitter for more RPO awesomeness!


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