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By Mike Kuchar, Senior Research Manager, X&O Labs

The following research was conducted as part of X&O Labs’ special report on “Defending RPOs from Four Down, Two High Spacing” defenses. The full-length report can be accessed in the Insiders membership website.


By Mike Kuchar 
Senior Research Manager 
X&O Labs 


The following research was conducted as part of X&O Labs’ special report on “Defending RPOs from Four Down, Two High Spacing” defenses. The full-length report can be accessed in the Insiders membership website.  

Palms Coverage Families to Defend Trips RPO Concepts  

There are several adjustments that defensive coordinators are making to defend trips formation RPOs. Some of the more common ones are below:   

Chain Coverage   

One of the more common solutions in defending trips open formations is that its playing what can be a lock coverage by the trips side corner who will have all of the number one receiver, while the overhang defender and near safety, who is 2x12 off the number two receiver, play a two-read concept on the number two and number three receivers. With the 3-technique being set to the back, this allows the pushed linebacker to be the hold and fold defender that can match any stick route (Diagram 37).    


“Mini” Coverage  

The issue with this coverage is that the near safety can be removed from his B gap entry point when he gets run action. So, the adjustment that can be made is what safeties coach Joel Taylor at The Citadel calls “Mini” where now this player can cheat to 8 yards from the tackle. He can now be in a position to help on the single receiver side on underneath routes with the corner if pass develops. In the passing game, he can completely be tied into reading the quarterback while the inside backer can play the back out. If the back is set to his side, he is the hold and fold player while the weak side inside linebacker is the B gap player (Diagram 38).    


While this may not completely be a two-high safety coverage, this post-snap drop of the weak safety helps to protect against the run game and quick screen element of RPOs. It’s something that Coach Taylor utilized against Clemson this season. “It was good on the quick screen game and the swing concept by number two,” said Coach Taylor. “Now the weak safety has the back and not the interior linebacker. It was an adjustment because the receiver was cracking the interior backer and the safety was following him all the way inside.”  

“Levi” Call  

Because of the potential placement of the H/Y off, Coach Taylor at Citadel will use two checks in defending these formation structures. If that H/Y is at least one foot outside of the box, Coach Taylor will instruct his safeties to make that “Levi” call to have the weak safety play number three vertical. This can only be made if the back is to him so that he’s not put in run/pass conflict. The overhang defender, who is now tighter to the box because of the trips formation, is the hold and fold player who can play the Glance route by the X (Diagram 39). Both interior backers will fit off the movement of the H/Y.   


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