Mixing Zone and Man Concepts to Defend 2×2 RPOs

Aug 13, 2017 | Defense, Game Planning, Defending Specific Offensive Systems and Concepts

Joe Ginn
Defensive Front Coordinator/LBs
Choctaw High School (OK)



Well, offensive coaches have done it. They’ve found a new way to bring back the Triple option and incorporated wishbone concepts of the veer into the Spread Offense with Zone Read/Bubble Schemes. I want to talk today about a very simple scheme that I believe we can all apply regardless of defensive scheme to attempt to defend it. The example I’m showing and accompanying video will show an Odd Stack, and a Base 4-3 Scheme. The key to incorporating this scheme is having the 2 safeties in the game and matchups you believe in. 


The concept we tried to use to limit this particular offense was playing man to man to the side we knew the Bubble/RPO was going to take place. We kept our normal Cover 2 Pattern Read Concepts in place on the other side. This particular team always offset their back, so we knew which side the bubble would be to, because we knew the QB would read the End to the side of the back and that slot receiver would be the one running the bubble. I’m going to focus this talk on their 2x2 set because it got a little bit more complicated to trips, and that’s a different topic here. We wanted #1 to be able to keep our LBs in the box and present to the Offense as much as possible a 6 or 7 man box to be able to stop the run, their run was much more scary than their pass (plus they were a spread to run team).

Our Scheme was to play Man to Man on the side of the back with our Safety and Corner because we knew this was the side the bubble or a slant would come from. While on the other side, we simply maintained our normal Pattern Read of #2 rules. Our Corner would squat on any out breaking route by #2 therefore, we could keep our LB on that side closer to the box because all he had to do was get to the curl area to defend any curl/slant, or be able to help collision the vertical of #2, but again we wanted his primary focus to be defending the run game.  You’ll see this concept diagrammed in Diagram 1 & 2, Diagram 1 is our 3-3-5 Nickel Concept, Diagram 2 is our Base 4-3.


Defending the Run

As far as our concepts vs. the run we wanted them to be fairly simple.  We always play “Big” gaps vs. the Zone.  What I mean is the LB’s are assigned a gap based on alignment or movement of the D-Line so they are to fit their “Big” gap vs. Zone Concepts by the offense.  In the Nickel we wanted to force the QB’s hand a bit, so we slanted the front away from the back. We simply called “Away” with our playcall to alert the D-Line we were slanting away from the back. We played head up 4’s with our DE’s and the Nose played a head up 0. Our Linebackers were responsible for fitting big gaps vs. Zone, this put Sam in B gap strong, Mike was responsible for the Weakside A-gap, to take away the cutback if the Back read the Nose, and Will was our Gap exchange guy for the Cutback or a QB Pull.  e was told to fit tight to the Hip of the DE’s starting alignment of a 4 and tackle the 1st threat to show.  e also tried to steal the Nickel Safety in the run game by lining him up at about 8 yards depth and put him over the back.  e was responsible for the back.  e told him you’re the guy the Offense can’t block so if it’s run go tackle the running back. I’m not sure how many tackles he had, but this is the part I’d work to fix if I used this scheme again.  Honestly I don’t know if we had an aggressive enough kid playing here.