RPO’s and Packaged Plays – Playing in the Sandbox

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We have been running some form of packaged plays since 2013 when I saw a clinic talk by Mike Emendorfer from UW-Platteville. Back then it was on the cutting edge of what teams were doing, but not it has become very advanced and teams at every level are running packaged plays, and RPO’s are all over as well. Our use of RPO’s and Packaged Plays has evolved tremendously from our meager beginnings in 2013, but there are some aspects that have never changed because they work so well for teaching and understanding the concepts involved.

Where We Began

When we started with packaging plays, we were really just adding some pre-snap read quick game to our existing run game. We would look for specific situations where that OLB was involved in defending the run, and we would add Hitch routes behind it. We told our QB that pre-snap, if there was a large enough cushion, to throw the hitch. Hitch was one of our best pass routes that we worked on a lot and were very comfortable with. We did not think of this as a special play, it was just leveraging a defender and throwing a route we considered a run play. We did not use this often, but there is one game in particular that this simple concept helped us win.

Flipping the Switch

We jumped into running true packaged plays fully in 2013. We had a QB that was a returning starter and he made good decisions on the field. We knew that we were going to struggle running the ball and wanted to have some answers that allowed us to call the right play almost every time. This was accomplished by calling 2 and 3 plays in the same play. These packaged plays combined some form of pre-snap read as well as a post-snap read in many cases. At times, using these concepts were the only way we were able to even up the numbers against the defense and have success. We were a no-huddle tempo team and calling three plays at once required 3 hand signals which forced the players to have to decipher a lot. We had a group of smart kids and were able to do this. In the years since, we have progressed to grouping some of the concepts together into one-word play calls, or to  have the flexibility to attach different plays with two signals.

The Sandbox Concept

When we are running packaged plays, we have 3 plays called in at the same time. The first play that is called in is the default play and is the play the OL will know as the play call. They will not be aware that there is anything else happening around them (until they yell at us for throwing on their great block). The order of the second and third calls did not matter, we would call the direction for each of them. The QB is taught which ones are which Sandbox. The QB’s reads are as follows:

QB Thought Process

  1. Look at Sandbox #1 -> Do you have Numbers, Leverage and Grass? Throw to Sandbox #1. If not, erase Sandbox #1, it is no longer part of the playcall and we have eliminated 33% of the field.
  2. Look at Sandbox #2 -> Do you have Numbers, Leverage and Grass? Throw to Sandbox #2. If not, move on to Sandbox #3, but do not erase Sandbox #2 from the play call.
  3. RPO with Sandbox #3 and Sandbox #2 -> Reading the correct defender, read whether to execute the run play in Sandbox #3, or to throw the RPO into Sandbox #2.
  4. Execute Sandbox #3 -> If you are not comfortable with Sandbox #1 or #2, the default is to just run Sandbox #3. Execute the run play and you will never be wrong in our eyes.

The Sandboxes

  • Sandbox #1 -> This is the pre-snap read and will be thrown every time the defense gives it to us. We call it a “Gift” and in the spirit of gift giving, if the someone gives you a gift, you take it and say thank you.
  • Sandbox #2 -> This is the second of the pre-snap reads, but the unique thing about Sandbox #2 is that it is also a post-snap read. Sandbox #2 is almost always some form of Screen. Usually a Bubble Screen or Now (Key) Screen.
  • Sandbox #3 -> The called run. If anything is weird about Sandbox #1 or #2, or the QB is not comfortable with the read, or if he likes something about Sandbox #3, he is never wrong just executing the run play.
By splitting the field into these Sandboxes, we feel that it gives the QB an easier read and easier picture of what the defense is doing. Instead of having to scan the entire field to try and determine where he has the best chance for success, he only has to look at a very small part of the field, assess the defense and then make a decision.

Here is an example of one of these calls as well as the QB thinking and the result of the play.

Trips Left Offset – Veer Left – Bubble Left – Speedo Right
Sandbox #1 = Speedo Right
Sandbox #2 = Bubble Left
Sandbox #3 = Veer Left

Pre-Snap in Sandbox #1, we have 1-on-1 coverage, but the CB is tight. That takes away the Speedo from the QB’s thinking. As he looks at Sandbox #2, he sees that the numbers are even with the OLB in a position to play the Bubble. The QB correctly decides to turn it into a Post-Snap RPO as the OLB was in a position splitting the difference and looking to play the pass and the run. Our QB correctly read the Veer read as a pull read. After he pulls the ball, he gets his eyes on the OLB conflict defender that attacks him immediately. He throws the Bubble, our WR throws a good block and we get a positive play.

I like teaching packaged plays this way because I think it takes some of the thinking and gray area out of the Box Reads for the QB. Trying to count 5, 6 or 7 players is a lot more difficult and time consuming than counting 1 or 2. Also, counting the box can lead to the question of whether a player is inside or outside of the box and where that line changes. Leave any questions or comments below!

By | 2018-01-15T20:34:35-06:00 January 15th, 2018|Categories: Featured, Offense, Spread Offense|Tags: , , , |0 Comments

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