Stopping the Read Option


Feb 23, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley speaks at a press conference during the 2013 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

The read option is on the rise in the NFL.  Teams like the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, and the Washington Redskins all ran it with decent to outrageous success during the season.  Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III have begun to make names for themselves largely based on their dual threat ability that is highlighted through the read option.

Some teams can stop it and some can’t.  You need look no further than the 49ers-Green Bay Packers Playoff game that showcased Kaepernick’s ability in the read option to the tune of 181 yards.  That was in the playoffs. The effect of that game was felt by the defensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens, I assure you.

It’s an offensive attack that can really affect the game plan of the opposing defense.  It forces them to take more options into consideration.  So, how do you stop it?

The 2012 season showed that the Seattle Seahawks did a pretty good job against a number of different offensive packages and schemes.  They limited the read option against RGIII’s Redskins in the playoffs and were never beaten by it during the season.  The 49ers beat them when Alex Smith was still quarterback and the Vikings posted 200+ yards on the ground, but who didn’t Adrian Peterson do that against?

Bradley elaborated on stopping the read option while talking at the NFL combine:

"For us (the Seattle Seahawks), it started off with having really good coverage corners, guys who can play press and obviously at the defensive end spot, guys who can run. That’s so important in our philosophy – you need a defense built around speed. The corners that press, it allows you to bring an extra player into the box to account for all the different option aspects and that’s critical."

Maybe the best example of Bardley’s defense destroying the read option was against the 49ers on December 23rd.  The Niners had just beat the New England Patriots and were coming in hot to Seattle.  Then the Seahawks just destroyed them.  The 42-13 final score isn’t the whole story.  The big story is that the Niners, a tough running team used to using the read option to throw defenses off and open things up, was limited to just 82 rushing yards and subsequently a horrendous 27% of third downs completed.

If the Jags can emulate what Bradley did in Seattle with tough defense that limits the hottest trend in NFL offensive play calling, then the read option may become a detriment for teams that face the Jags.  Of course there may not be many teams on the Jags 2013 schedule that run the read option.  But it’s good to be prepared anyway.

– Luke N. Sims

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