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The Zone Read
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Justis
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79
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Jeremy Ross, he's a receiver
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justo


Joined: 05 Aug 2012
Posts: 14349
PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2013 6:24 am    Post subject: The Zone Read Reply with quote

79 said I should make a post about the zone read. If you like this thank him.

Introduction

As a kid, I was never really a fan of sports. Baseball was too slow. During practice, I just picked grass because I was bored. Basketball was okay, but still wasn't my thing. In the 5th grade my parents finally let me play football. My dad was part of two state championship teams from Hood River in the early 90s. I really started paying attention to football after that season. It was 2006 and my elementary school (15 kids in my class, one class per grade) merged with two bigger schools in middle school. I wasn't the only one that played football in my class, anymore. I had people to follow football with me now.

Looking through some magazines my mom had bought me, I noticed something. Being Latin, I had always been curious which football players had come from the same background as me. Ricky Santos. I saw a name I could connect with and looked him up. Ricky Santos was going into his junior year of New Hampshire with two full seasons as a starter under his belt, soon to add another along with the Walter Payton Award in 2006. I glanced at the rest of the New Hampshire roster and looked into David Ball. After his senior year, Ricky Santos wouldn't be the big man anymore. He bounced around practice squads and CFL teams, and now is out of football. Ball broke Jerry Rice's record for most TDs by an FCS player. He was undrafted (like Santos) in 2007 but spent two years with the Jets. He then bounced around the CFL and now the AFL. The record setting New Hampshire teams weren't amazingly talented, but the scheme they ran was made to keep the defense honest, and it worked. The 2006 New Hampshire offensive coordinator was Chip Kelly.

In 2006 the Oregon Ducks started off 4-0 before ending the season at 7-6. Gary Crowton (former BYU HC) was the OC at the time and moved on from Oregon, signing with LSU as their OC. His Tigers team won the BCS National Championship his first year at LSU. The Ducks needed to replace the OC and got Kelly.

The first, and biggest, decision Kelly had was to decide was which quarterback to start. People seem to forget that Dennis Dixon was terrible before his senior year. He played summer baseball, before his senior year, with the Braves, and almost didn't come back to Oregon. The other quarterback? Brady Leaf, Ryan Leaf's little brother. Both had been used in 2005, when Kellen Clemens got hurt, and in 2006 splitting QB snaps. Here are their 2006 stats:

Dennis Dixon 197/322 (61%) 2,143 12 TD 14 Int, 94-442-2 TD
Brady Leaf 86/155 (55%) 917 6 TD 4 Int, 13-35-1 TD

This Ducks team was projected to be the 6th best Pac 10 team. The talent at UO wasn't good on the offensive side. There was Jonathan Stewart, but in the passing game there was little to no help. Ed Dickson was on the team (now a Raven) but only he and Jaison Williams (nicknamed stone hands by Oregon fans) had more than 250 yards that year. Dixon was the most mobile QB by a large margin, which worked better for the "gimmick" offense Chip Kelly was to install. Chip now says the reason he ran the zone read at Oregon was because the lack of QB/WR talent, and the lack of any fullback on the roster. Under the zone read/Dixon era, Oregon started off to a hot 4-0.

vs Houston 47-27
@ Michigan (which was preseason #2) 39-7
vs Fresno State 52-21
@ Stanford 55-31

A blown call (in my opinion) lead #6 Cal to beat Oregon at home 24-31, but the success continued.

Washington State 53-7
@ Washington 55-34
#9 USC 24-27
#6 Arizona State 35-23

A Thursday night game, on ESPN, changed everything for the Ducks. Going into the game the Ducks were ranked 2nd in the nation, while Arizona wasn't ranked. Dennis Dixon had a ligament sprain the weeks prior to the game, but played in his brace. He refused to let the dreams of a Heisman, a Pac 10 title, and a national title slip away from him. Then this happened:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PzpOEdUdoM4
Dixon makes the read, pulls the ball out of Jonathan Stewart's hands, his knee buckles, then he falls. Non contact injury to a zone read QB with a sprain that continues to play?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NyEL8UhgQ_c

The box scores over the next weeks alone explain what happens when you try fit a square peg in a round hole for the read option. More injuries occurred as the Ducks lost their next three.

@ Arizona 24-34
@ UCLA 0-16
Oregon State 31-38 OT

After starting 8-1 and ranked #2 in the nation, they slipped to 8-4 with a double OT loss against their in state rival. With time Chip Kelly adjusted the offense for the bowl game. The zone read was still there in the game against South Florida, but it was modified for a slower freshman in Roper.

South Florida 56-21

Dennis Dixon
2006 : 197/322 (61.2%) 2,143 (6.7 YPA) 12 TD 14 Int, 94-442 (4.7 YPC) 2 TD
2007 (in 8 games): 172/254 (67.7%) 2,136 (8.4 YPA) 20 TD 4 Int, 105-583 (5.6 YPC) 9 TD

Dixon's improvement in every area of passing and running was amazing. Chip Kelly's offense proved two things: 1) The zone read was a quick fix against Pac 10 teams that were focused on stopping the pass for so many years and 2) It wasn't for every quarterback.

Realizing that he couldn't run it with any QB, he recruited three QBs for the 2008 class. Chris Harper, Darron Thomas, and Jeremiah Masoli were those QBs. Masoli became the starter as Dixon graduated and lead the Ducks to a Rose Bowl a year later. Darron Thomas became the school leader in passing (and he left a year early). Chris Harper was converted to WR before transferring to Kansas State. Harper is a 2nd day hopeful in the 2013 NFL Draft.

2008 Oregon Ducks (they used 5 QBs that year because of random injuries)
Washington 44-10
Utah State 66-24
@ Purdue 32-26 OT
Boise State 32-37 (on our 5th QB by now)
@ Washington State 63-14
@ #9 USC 10-44
UCLA 31-24
@ Arizona State 54-20
@ California 16-26
Stanford 35-28
Arizona 55-45
@ #17 Oregon State 65-38
#13 Oklahoma State 42-31

After that season there were rumors that Chip was going to get head coaching calls from other schools. Oregon pushed out Bellotti (Oregon HC for 14 years, winningest coach of all time for the school) to make Chip Kelly the head coach. Since then he's taken over he's been 45-7 (33-3 in Pac 12) and was two plays away from playing in three straight national championships.

Everyone thinks Oregon's program is built by Nike's bright uniforms, Phil Knight paying players, and a gimmick offense. Oregon isn't a high school football hot spot. The University of Oregon doesn't have a rich football history. They have to go into California to recruit. With Los Angeles (x2), San Francisco (x2), Phoenix, Denver, Seattle, Salt Lake City as major metro areas in the Pac 12, something else would have to bring in recruits other than history of rooting for the team or the college life. Let me put it this way, the other schools in small cities in the Pac 12 are Oregon State (Corvallis), Washington State (Pullman), and Arizona (Tuscon.) When was the last time you saw a really good team out of any of those schools?

Oregon's program and scheme is more about discipline than anything.

The Zone Read

The basics of an option offense hasn't changed much since the veer. What you are doing is giving the offensive line an advantage by basically having a player on defense block themselves. Let's just say it's two on one for right now. I have the ball, my friend is running with me, and you are trying to get a tackle. You run at the guy with the ball, correct? Okay, right before you tackle me I'm going to pitch it out to my friend. It's easier to play that timing "read" game then it is to have me as the designated ball carrier and tell my friend to block you. Many people have said that the option would never work in the NFL. The example I gave you would have been more like a speed option. The Mike Vick era Falcon teams tried running that a bit, but it didn't have amazing success. Problem with the speed option is you get past first level with the pitch, but the defense is already flowing to where the ball is. That and the pitch alone causes many more fumble problems than just running the ball normally.



The speed option, the triple option (under center with a HB and FB) will never work as a staple in the NFL. The concept of playing 11 on 11 in the running game instead of 10 on 11 is correct though. It doesn't even have to be a run threat. How many QBs did anything when handing the ball off in past years? Now by simply looking at a OLB/DE it freezes him in the zone. Even in normal handoffs Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson are making blocks down field this year. All this may cause a concern for the injury of these guys, but there is no doubt playing 11 on 11 in the offensive running game makes teams better. All four teams that run the zone read are in the top 8 for yards per carry. Washington and San Francisco are only behind Minnesota and their cyborg RB.

You can build a team around the zone read the same way you can build a team around the play action. You don't run it every play, but you do it enough to keep the team balanced. It's almost impossible to beat a 11 on 11 running team when playing balanced.

There are two types of zone reads from what I have seen. Inside reads and outside reads. Inside reads are basically dives, and outside reads are stretch plays. The most important thing for a back to have in this is vision. This goes for the QB and the RB. Chip Kelly had running backs sit in black rooms and follow a laser to train their eyes to find holes quickly since Stewart was at UO. Now Nike has given them special goggles that delay the information given to their eyes. Basically making them work with less in practice, making game day easier. That's pretty much Chip Kelly's montra.

Here is a basic inside zone play.


You can already spot the read man above. The line splits between the LT and the LG. The difference between the zone read and the speed option is 1) the pitch isn't made, the decision is made at the mesh point 2) the two options are going in different directions so the defense isn't always flowing to the ball carrier. Basically if the option man goes for the running back the QB keeps it. If he stays (aka "spys") then the handoff goes to the running back. Seems easy enough, right? Something else to think about: it's not like the guy who was supposed to block the read man isn't doing anything on that play anymore. That blocker is now blocking to the playside (for RB) which means everyone bumps assignments to the playside one more spot. You either a) hand off to a side with an extra blocker or b) tuck it and run into open field.


Here is the "mesh point". A decision needs to be made. The read man is crashing inside at the RB so Masoli should take this ball. You will notice four blockers to the right taking on three defenders. As Chip Kelly says "If my players can count to six, the play should work."


The defense is flowing right, including the read man. Unlike the speed option though the QB is running the opposite side of the RB.


Paydirt. No one close to him.

Now logically how do you combat this play? You have to take away the QB and RB.. You could have the read man spy the QB (forcing him to hand off) but have the DL/LB shift over to the playside (for RB) to stop him there, right?




Oregon State sure is going to try.


Barner gets the hand off and cuts back to the read man's side. Paydirt.

They are simple plays. You could drop a safety...but then you basically have to play man in the passing game. The read option can also be set up as bubbles after the first read, a speed option with the WR after the first read, or even a PA just to freeze the "read man." Why do you think that Matthews was frozen a lot of the game? If I'm San Fran I try to read or PA and stare him down as much as freaking possible to make him less effective. The only time I have seen teams stop Oregon's offenses are when they either are stacked with blue chippers on the DL, or they have fast linebackers and play to their assignments all day. Discipline is what stops the zone read just as much as it makes the zone read work. After that you just let athletes be athletes.

We didn't have the athletes or discipline to compete with it last weekend. The reason I was bugging out about the 10 YPC on reads vs Minnesota was because they weren't a pass threat and we still gave up that much. I'm not so sure it's a different story with Perry/Bishop/Worthy out there, though. Team just needed to get healthy on defense.

FWIW can you imagine college tacklers having to do this against guys that are part of the nations best track team? Not only that but the pace Kelly runs is insane. He has three systems:

Red-Pedal to the floor. 5 seconds between plays. This is when the poster boards go up for Oregon.
Yellow-The QB runs no huddle at the LOS but doesn't get the snap off first thing. QB (Mariota, now) calls the play at the LOS depending on the defense.
Green-Kelly has the dudes on the ropes and "tailor makes a play" that will beat the defense. Calls from the sideline. If you ever see UO go no huddle and then look to the sideline this is what Kelly is doing.

#ChipGonnaChangeTheGame

tl;dr The zone read is really cool. Option football is good because the NFL is finally playing 11 on 11 instead of 10 on 11 when running. The speed option won't work because of fumbles and the defense flowing to the same side. The zone has the defense flowing opposite sides and doesn't have the same fumble risk. The "read man"'s blocker in a typical zone blocking play is now blocking to the RB's playside which means one more blocker for him if he gets the ball. If he doesn't get the ball then the QB should be in the open field. Really the only way to beat the read is beating them with amazing talent on the DL, or stacking the box with fast players. If the team stacks the box you pass on them like you usually would. You can also mix up the reads with inside/outside, passes out of them, and triple options.

If you guys want I could try to break down the reads from last weeks game when the game film is on Rewind. FWIW Atlanta's defense matches up pretty decently (due to speed) to San Francisco's O. I still think Patriots/49ers is a lock though.

EDIT: I probably missed some points I wanted to make but it's 2:30 in the morning so..
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justo


Joined: 05 Aug 2012
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2013 6:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XvM2KDn5yCo here's a video on the triple option I was talking about. Fish Duck and Smart Football are the two guys that seem to know a lot of the X's and O's they talk about. Just got Smart Football's book on Saturday.
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Bears Are Legit


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2013 7:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is amazing; and scary.
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justo


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2013 7:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bears Are Legit wrote:
This is amazing; and scary.
It's really game changing. I also forgot to mention that this basically attacks the way football was going. Teams are focusing on pass players. Corners have no impact on these plays unless they go deep. Elite pass rushers could just be frozen for a game. Think of play actions while staring at the pass rusher instead of looking back and handing the ball off. Not only does the defense have to respect the PA but the rusher's responsibility is to make sure the QB hands off so he freezes. Maybe he becomes a hero and gets jumpy. Eventually a team is going to figure it out and run actual reads while the RB runs to a +1 play side. There's a reason Chip Kelly is getting calls. I think he's ready for the NFL but he's waiting for a better job. His tempo, practices, and mind would be great for the NFL.


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Bears Are Legit


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2013 7:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

justo wrote:
Bears Are Legit wrote:
This is amazing; and scary.
It's really game changing. I also forgot to mention that this basically attacks the way football was going. Teams are focusing on pass players. Corners have no impact on these plays unless they go deep. Elite pass rushers could just be frozen for a game. Think of play actions while staring at the pass rusher instead of looking back and handing the ball off. Not only does the defense have to respect the PA but the rusher's responsibility is to make sure the QB hands off so he freezes. Maybe he becomes a hero and gets jumpy. Eventually a team is going to figure it out and run actual reads while the RB runs to a +1 play side. There's a reason Chip Kelly is getting calls. I think he's ready for the NFL but he's waiting for a better job. His tempo, practices, and mind would be great for the NFL.



So you said teams that have beaten Oregon are usually teams with blue chip defensive line talents and fast linebackers. Is the same formula necessary to stop the zone read in the NFL?

I've always thought that running the ball with a straight handoff is wildly inefficient but I never really understood why. Playing 10 vs. 11 is exactly why, that makes perfect sense. With the zone read it seems like the running back is given much more time and freedom once they get the handoff since the QB is taking away defenders that would usually be locked in on the RB. That's probably why Alfred Morris got so many yards this year. Could you imagine actual top tier running backs like AP, McCoy, Foster etc. if they got the man advantage that Morris got so often this season? Kaepernick's rape of our defense is gonna have a lot of offenses trying out the zone read. I'm not sure if I'm comfortable with this development.
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justo


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2013 7:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bears Are Legit wrote:
So you said teams that have beaten Oregon are usually teams with blue chip defensive line talents and fast linebackers. Is the same formula necessary to stop the zone read in the NFL?

I've always thought that running the ball with a straight handoff is wildly inefficient but I never really understood why. Playing 10 vs. 11 is exactly why, that makes perfect sense. With the zone read it seems like the running back is given much more time and freedom once they get the handoff since the QB is taking away defenders that would usually be locked in on the RB. That's probably why Alfred Morris got so many yards this year. Could you imagine actual top tier running backs like AP, McCoy, Foster etc. if they got the man advantage that Morris got so often this season? Kaepernick's rape of our defense is gonna have a lot of offenses trying out the zone read. I'm not sure if I'm comfortable with this development.
When Oregon can't do things it's because they played against LSU, Auburn, or Stanford. To be honest I can't think of a team that shut down the zone read so far in the NFL...I know that when I tracked the SF snaps it looked like every one was a decent gain. I'd have to look into Seattle/Washington more. I know Carolina supposedly runs it poorly but I'm not sure how. (IIRC something along the lines of using the same plays over and over.) I mean the easy way to stop it is putting more guys in the box. That pretty much prevents it being called. [Minor orgasm thinking about McCoy and Vick running the zone read.] I think this has a lot of defensive coordinators on edge. It's also a lot easier to find Russell Wilson/Colin Kaepernick than to find Aaron Rodgers/Tom Brady. I really would think about Matt Scott as a backup for Green Bay this draft. Rodgers goes down, no one is replacing him in the passing game. If Scott comes in then at least we can use him in that phase of the game. Seems like this team is built for it anyway.

ZBS [check]
WRs that can block [check]
RB that plays out of the shotgun, can get outside [check]

We just need a QB with non-concussion issues.

Also some things to know about the college game vs the NFL game. The hashes are close which means stretch plays to the far side could be shortened in the NFL vs college. Some of the plays LaMike used to break off he would literally run at the sideline then make a 90 degree turn and just run upfield. It was like Tecmo Bowl. Also you can't pass the ball behind the LOS if your OL is downfield IIRC. In college you can throw a little bubble screen even if the OL is blocking the read like normal as long as the pass is behind the LOS. Need to look at how the Redskins ran their bubble option more.
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Bears Are Legit


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2013 7:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

justo wrote:
When Oregon can't do things it's because they played against LSU, Auburn, or Stanford. To be honest I can't think of a team that shut down the zone read so far in the NFL...I know that when I tracked the SF snaps it looked like every one was a decent gain. I'd have to look into Seattle/Washington more. I know Carolina supposedly runs it poorly but I'm not sure how. (IIRC something along the lines of using the same plays over and over.) I mean the easy way to stop it is putting more guys in the box. That pretty much prevents it being called. [Minor orgasm thinking about McCoy and Vick running the zone read.] I think this has a lot of defensive coordinators on edge. It's also a lot easier to find Russell Wilson/Colin Kaepernick than to find Aaron Rodgers/Tom Brady. I really would think about Matt Scott as a backup for Green Bay this draft. Rodgers goes down, no one is replacing him in the passing game. If Scott comes in then at least we can use him in that phase of the game. Seems like this team is built for it anyway.

ZBS [check]
WRs that can block [check]
RB that plays out of the shotgun, can get outside [check]

We just need a QB with non-concussion issues.

Also some things to know about the college game vs the NFL game. The hashes are close which means stretch plays to the far side could be shortened in the NFL vs college. Some of the plays LaMike used to break off he would literally run at the sideline then make a 90 degree turn and just run upfield. It was like Tecmo Bowl. Also you can't pass the ball behind the LOS if your OL is downfield IIRC. In college you can throw a little bubble screen even if the OL is blocking the read like normal as long as the pass is behind the LOS. Need to look at how the Redskins ran their bubble option more.


More guys in the box would of course do it...but that's exactly what teams are looking for so they can open up the passing game. Jesus, I don't like where this is going. I don't know how Carolina could possibly mess this up but apparently they have. They'll definitely have a full fledged zone read playbook next year. If we start getting bounced in the playoffs by these guys on a consisten basis this could end up really, really sucking. All of the best running QBs are in the NFC too.
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justo


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2013 7:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chris B. Brown, AKA Smart Football wrote:
Defenses began reacting by using a technique called a “scrape exchange” to mess up the read. With this defensive adjustment, the defensive end always crashes for the runningback, while the linebacker “scrapes” over to take the quarterback. If the quarterback doesn’t see this, he will pull the ball, thinking he will have an easy lane on the backside, and instead runs straight into the linebacker.



Or you could alway just go the Arthur Brown route and cover RG3 and his running back Laughing (I don't think ILB is a need but if we get one I want Brown or Kiko Alonso.)
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HyponGrey


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2013 8:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nagler put it in dummy terms. "It's a variation on the same bootleg that's been a staple in the NFL for years"
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2013 8:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The zone read (while different) requires the same thing that a triple option or regular option requires to stop it. It takes disciplined assignment sure football. If you start leveling the QB if he fakes like he has the ball every play they will stop because their QB will die. There needs to be a guy responsible for the QB and he can't let the QB play him. If the defense has the OLB responsible for the QB he needs to play the QB. If the OLB is responsible for the RB then he needs to get the RB and forget about the QB. Ultimately the guys in the NFL are athletic enough to cover the zone read IF they play their assignment.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2013 10:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Amazing post thanks for doing this Justo, I mean once you get past that weird intro. Also I like Oregon but I just see them getting smoked by the good D's in the title game, just saying.
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fattlipp


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2013 10:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If a LB ran in and tackled the QB 1.5 sec after he handed it off the the RB would it be a late hit on the QB, or would he be considered a potential ball carrier, and dismissed as the LB just not finding the ball. If so I think the D should just have someone tackle the QB hard on every play regardless of whether on not he hands it off.

Another thing if a QB fakes a handoff to a RB and then throws a pass to him as he is getting tackled, is it pass interference or defensive holding?
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General_Bean


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2013 11:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think a flaw to the Zone read option or even the triple option is setting your starting QB up for hits (some cheaper than others). Pending on how many times a drive or game you can run this play, your QB can take a hit during every play. Your last video showing the triple option notice the LB doesn't even consider the RB and just gets a shot on the QB. The more hits he takes, the less the play can be called and the possibility of rattling his timing with pitches/judgement call to hand off.

Now as a offensive weapon, I can even see a pass play coming from it. I think of Tebows "jump pass" which you can send the same side WR on a streak with a TE coming from the backside. Now blocking would breakdown a bit but bear with me....because it's paintbrush

Using the Video from the Oregon triple option package (with a modified package of a TE over a 3WR)




Now Run the play



It seems simple (how effective, im not sure) also I'm sure this is already a play in someones playbook, i'm not a creative innovator.

Anywho, It's the same simple triple read option, however it has a 4th option to pass. So if you have a QB that can throw on the run you can either 1) Hand off to RB 2) Take off yourself 3) pitch to RB 4) see an open WR down the field or TE coming off the backside.

With Kaeps arm, he can easily run this play to perfection. The same side CB would either choose to follow the WR or play the option, it would have to make the LB make the play and if he doesnt, the QB/RB may not be hit until 10 yards down the field.
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Kampman74


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2013 12:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Would be nice to know then who was responsible for what in our game agaisnt San Fran, but I don't know how you could figure that out. Who would best for both roles mentioned on our team? Bishop is healthy and then Perry? Or would you move Matthews over to stop it?
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Packerraymond


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2013 1:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Zone read is stopped only by disciplined, assignment sure football, something that was no where to be found on Saturday night. Lineman have to be conscious of their gaps and linebackers need to stay in their fits and read their keys. You get guys spinning around looking for the ball like Matthews or crashing hard on the RB like Walden and it's really like stealing candy from a baby. Either our staff prepared our guys for this and we have a bunch of undisciplined idiots out there on D or our staff just didn't think we would see a zoneback read and wasn't gameplanning for it. Either way, San Fran called a perfect game and we might have lost before we ever took the field.
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