Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

26 Jul 2013

Defending the Read-Option

Chris Brown's Grantland opus on the issues NFL teams face when it comes to the read-option.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 26 Jul 2013

8 comments, Last at 30 Sep 2013, 1:18pm by Chris Allen


by Karl Cuba :: Fri, 07/26/2013 - 10:22am

Really great article but I think he means 'huge lane for the running back' at end if the 13th paragraph, especially as it's next to a shot of Lynch scampering through a hole vacated by the defensive end.

by PatsFan :: Fri, 07/26/2013 - 12:42pm

For comparison purposes, here's the Peter King Empire's piece on the same subject: http://mmqb.si.com/2013/07/26/derek-mason-stanford-read-option/

by Jon E (not verified) :: Fri, 07/26/2013 - 3:26pm

Peter King's is more contemporary. Chris has been saying the same thing for years now without accurately addressing techniques used.

Critical to the defense of the Read-Option is the mobility of a stand-up outside LB and a 2-gap DE.

I'd wager there is a strong correlation between the rise of read-option plays called and/or mobile QBs, and the adoption of the 34 defense.

A youtube search will come up with accurate contemporary educational material on defending the read option- split-flow reads, etc.

by Gregory M (not verified) :: Fri, 07/26/2013 - 9:26pm

I thought the Brown article was the best article I've read on this subject, and I'm not sure what you mean by "contemporary". The MMQB article says the only way to play the read option is you have to switch to a 3-4 defense? That seems silly. Plenty of good college defenses have played 4 down fronts against the read option well (think LSU, Auburn, TCU) and the 3-4 didn't help the Packers last year. Sure two-gapping in theory gives you an extra gap accounted for, but you don't get much pass rush or penetration. I also didn't take Brown to say you can't use two gapping with all of the other stuff he talked about. He wrote probably the best article on that subject with his piece on Wilfork a year or so back.

The MMQB article was enjoyable but I didn't take it as gospel. There were lots of little issues (what was Oregon's "split back pistol"? They didn't run that diamond formation you see a lot), and sweeping statements (about the "only" coverages you can play). I'm not saying it was bad but not sure where your hate is coming from. I know who coaches read, and it's Brown.

by RC-12 (not verified) :: Sat, 07/27/2013 - 11:27pm

Just do what the Rams did last year.

3-1-1 against SF, Seattle and DC.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 07/29/2013 - 1:28pm

So... do what the Rams did and give up 66 yards and one TD at 8.3 YPC against Kaepernick the first time, 84 yards at 9.3 YPC against Kaepernick the second time, 82 yards and 2 TDs at 7.5 YPC against Griffin and 58 yards and 1 TD at 5.8 YPC against Wilson? Actually, I think Seattle actually only ran one read-option play against St. Louis the second time, and probably didn't run any the first time.

by eric (not verified) :: Sat, 08/24/2013 - 2:17am

One thing this doesn't really mention is practice time and the value of being original on practice time. Even in the NFL there's only so much time on the field, especially there are very very few reps at nearly full speed.

If you are say the 2012 Miami Dolphins, you face 2 read option teams and 14 more traditional teams. You spend the vast vast majority of your time preparing for the traditional teams, and suffer when you face the outlier. If more teams implement the read option, it will be less effective. It's just like zone blitzing.

by Chris Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 09/30/2013 - 1:18pm

I read this actually looking for one of two things: 1) find out how other people are defending the read option from the pistol or 2) confirmation that you can't give the Offensive team the same look on every down. I got a little of both. Force the back you want to carry the ball to have it and hit the QB if he hints at carrying out a fake or keeps it.