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By Javier Cardenas, Offensive Coordinator, Eagle Pass High School (TX)

Our offensive identity is simple: Physical, Fast, Execute (PFE). Rather than saturating an offensive playbook, RPOs allow us to mix our base concepts from week-to-week through personnel groupings, formations, motions, and tempos. Read the report...


By Javier Cardenas
Offensive Coordinator
Eagle Pass High School (TX)

Twitter: @Coach_JCardenas


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RPOs are evolving into a staple for spread offenses for various solid reasons. They give an offense the ability to get playmakers involved in a variety of simple yet creative ways. Defenses must consider additional time to develop and prepare personnel for RPOs, particularly linebackers. Defenses, in many ways, are forced to play assignment football against RPOs, especially at the 1st and 2nd level. We saw many defensive adjustments to our RPOs this past season: Cover 2 (man under), Cover 3, moving/spot coverages to remove the stationary read, straight man coverage and 4-1 box adjustments. The advantage of our style RPO is that it had answers for these and other coverages.

Our offensive identity is simple: Physical, Fast, Execute (PFE). Rather than saturating an offensive playbook, RPO's allow us to mix our base concepts from week-to-week through personnel groupings, formations, motions, and tempos. We do not want our kids over analyzing situations; we want them to be PFE. RPOs comprise about 40% of our offense and revolve around four base formations: 2x2, 3x1, 2X1 (20 personnel) and Empty with 3x1 being most effective. Again, we do a great job window dressing RPOs from week-to-week, but the base concept never changes.

While we are not a true Screen Pass Option (SPO) unit, our screen game mimics the SPO (Screen/Pass Option) system. We embed our best menu run game into our screen game. Our screen game is a unique call based on how a defense aligns. As the defense begins to overcompensate to the run/RPO, we tag the screen. We have a variety of ways of doing this. Essentially, we take away the decision-making ability from our QB and tell him when to throw the screen. However, the run RPO element stays intact and the defense must continue to defend. This simplified our QB's thought process while allowing our offensive line and receivers to play "PFE." Hesitation and indecisiveness is a QB's kryptonite!

Creating Concepts based on Functionality

We create our concepts to function as a natural progression. Essentially, we evolve our fundamental concepts based on our player's strengths. We constantly teach fundamentals because we want our kids excelling and competing at a high level of PFE. Our version of the screen game accounted for about 15-20% of the offense with a high completion rate of over 90%, 7-yard average, and an explosive play. It was a great fit for our athletic offensive line. It was also a great fit for our tall and athletic receivers. It gave our receivers plenty of opportunities to develop toughness (physical) through blocks. It goes hand in hand with our PFE offensive identity.

Our 3x1 set was a large part of our offensive identity. Our weekly goal was to give defenses a new way to defend 3x1. However, we did not clutter the play sheet with additional concepts. We want our kids to understand the "why" we are doing what we do and have answers for them when the "why" is not clear.

One defensive tendency we saw was personnel shifting to cover trips as the game progressed in the following ways: four defenders covering the trips (OLB, Corner and 2 Safeties). The defense would also over-compensated to trips (either to the field or to the boundary). Too many defenders to the trips side meant one edge player/one corner playing our X or Z receiver on an island. It was a simple numbers advantage. As the defense overcompensates to defend the trips (or base concept), our screen game kicked in. We show the exact run/RPO concept the defense committed to stop. We try to get the defense playing down, then suddenly, make them defend side-to-side. I do not hesitate to call the same run/RPO play back-to-back-to-back if it was working. This is a solid way of sneaking in a screen.

Running the ball is key to offensive success. We want LBs in run/pass conflicts. It requires defenses to change the way they drill and prepare LB. Corners and Safeties also have to prepare for big athletic OL coming at them in space.

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  • The five screen concepts Coach Cardenas will pair with this run game, including the QB's read progression on each.
  • How he teaches the offensive line the proper footwork, timing and eye progression to block the screen game.
  • The post-snap read progression of the QB based on all of the screen concepts in Coach Cardenas menu.
  • The top drill Coach Cardenas uses to teach this concept along with how he alleviates the most common errors that OL, RB's, WR's and the QB commit in this system.
  • Plus, game film on all these concepts.

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Combing our screen game to look like our best run/RPO concept was simple and productive for us this past season. We simply took away the decision-making ability from our QB and let him execute. It allowed him to get the ball to our playmakers more effectively.

Meet Coach Javier Cardenas: Coach Cardenas has served as offensive coordinator at Eagle Pass High School for the past 5 years—and offensive line coach for the previous 9 years.



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