Inside Zone RPO: The Basics

In my experience, inside zone is one of the most versatile weapons an offensive coordinator has at his disposal.  Whether you’re a 21 personnel guy or a 10 personnel guy, or anywhere in between, chances are you run the IZ as part of your scheme.  In this article, we are going to examine three of my favorite simple RPO schemes out of a 10 personnel, 2×2 set.


Everyone runs a version of this play these days.  The inside zone with a double bubble screen is a dangerous and versatile concept that most offensive coordinators use, regardless of the front and coverage they are facing on a week-to-week basis.  Personally, I like to run inside zone to the one technique when I am seeing a four man front because we can get two double teams at the point of attack to create vertical push up front:

1 tech

Read Progression:

When your quarterback comes to the line, the first thing he needs to do is check his pass read.  What are his numbers like?  Do we have a numbers advantage anywhere on the perimeter?  In this case, we have two receivers to the field and three defenders.  That bubble is a no.  But, to the backside, we have one cornerback for our two receivers.  Our numbers are greater, so we would throw the bubble on the snap:

Hot throw

If the quarterback comes to the line and sees that the numbers are equal to the perimeter, he progresses to his run read:

Inside Zone - No numbers

Just like most inside zone reads, the quarterback is going to read the backside defensive end while he meshes with the running back and keep it if the end chases the back:

If the end stays home and sits on the QB, you’ve just blocked one defender without having to touch him:

If the QB makes a keep read on the defensive end, the options don’t stop there. You still have your bubble screen in case you get this:

RPO Pull and throw

These are the most basic versions of RPO off of inside zone.  Here are a couple more that I really like to run and have had success with.

Snap Double OScarSlide2

With this version of our RPO game, we are still running inside zone.  In this particular run scheme, we will add a tag that speaks to the backside tackle or the backside guard and tackle, depending on the whether we have a five technique backside or a five and three technique backside.  When they hear this tag, they base out to isolate the weakside LB.

The presnap read is the backside corner or the playside bubble.  If the $ tries to apex the playside tackle and the Y, we’ll throw that.  But, the presnap throw we really love is the speed out to the X to the boundary.  This is a great play to run from a hash.  If the backside corner is playing 7+ yards off the X, we will throw the quick out all game.  The QB must take the snap and fire this into the boundary NOW.

If the corner is pressed and the QB does not feel safe making the out throw into the boundary, we will move into our run progression.  Since the backside tackle is basing out on the defensive end we would normally read, the QB is going to read the weakside linebacker at the snap.  If he comes up and plays run, we will hit the stick route in the area he vacates:

Stick Read.gif

If he holds on the stick, we get a nice cutback lane for our running back.

Another concept we use consistently is the double slant concept on the backside.  Again, the QB reads the playside bubble to see if our Y has leverage on the overhang LB to the field. Then, if the QB doesn’t like the bubble, he checks to see what the outside slant looks like:


If the corner is off and the weakside LB is playing in the box, we will throw the outside slant on the snap.  If the cornerback is pressed inside, we will progress to the run read.  Once the ball is snapped, if the weakside LB comes up on the RB, we will throw the quick slant to the slot. It’s more of a homerun hitter ball than the stick.  If he can split the safeties after the catch, this can turn into a big play.

Check back next week.  I’m going to discuss power read and some of the better RPO concepts I’ve seen off the power game.

  • DK

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