Developing an PRO Offense Part 1: Dressing Up Base Run Schemes With Perimeter Screens

One of the first developments in the RPO revolution was combining screen passes with shotgun run plays to spread the field from sideline to sideline.  The idea was old school, yet new at the same time. If triple option football could combine a dive read off a first level defender and a pitch read off a second level defender, why couldn’t a spread offense combine on inside run read with a perimeter screen read?  The reads were the same, but the scheme was different.  The end man on the line of scrimmage would dictate run or keep by the quarterback and the second level read would dictate run or pass to the quarterback.  It’s simplicity was the beauty of the play.  The idea was nothing new, but the execution was entirely different.

The question is, what screens work best with which run plays?  How do you match a screen effectively with an inside or outside run play?

The questions to keep in mind when game planning for a certain defense are:

  1. How do I make the defense account for every player on the offense?
  2. Which defenders do we want to isolate to create a pass read?
  3. Can we replace a blocker in the run game with a receiver in the pass game?

The first question is one that many coaches don’t consider when game planning for an opponent.  This is an important question because creating an advantage for an RPO offense is dictated by working the numbers for an advantage: either in the box or on the perimeter.  In the days when 21 personnel reigned supreme in high school and college football, the fullback usually accounted for the defender that the offensive line didn’t have the numbers to block.

To start, let’s examine a play that every coach who’s used the I formation has run: the weak side Iso.


This is one of the most basic offensive run plays.  The offensive line blocks hat on hat, working  first level double teams to the linebackers.  The fullback attacks the linebacker in the weak side bubble.  There are seven blockers for the seven man box.  The extra player is the running back, who follows the fullback through the hole and attempts to make the third level defenders miss if/when he breaks through the second level.  How do we translate a play as simple as the iso to spead RPO offense?

IZR 11 Personnel

We still isolate the Will linebacker by moving our R out to the slot.  Instead of isolating a LB with a blocking fullback, we move him into a position that forces him to make a decision on the snap: am I going to play the pass or am I going to play the run?  The blocking for inside zone is virtually identical to the I back Iso play.  Now on the mesh the quarterback reads the Will linebacker and if he plays run the quarterback throws the bubble.  If he plays pass the quarterback continues his mesh and gives the ball to the running back.

Now, if we move from an 11 personnel set (one running back, one tight end) to a 10 personnel set (one running back, zero tight ends), we get the same pass option from two different defenders:

2x2 Bubble

Instead of having a give/pass option, now we have pass/pass/give/keep options.  Their are four possible plays available just by spreading the defense out with additional receivers.

First of all, coming up with six to eight screens that work to isolate a run/pass defender is the best way to start.  Do we have a trips bubble screen? A trips flanker screen? A 2×2 bubble screen? A 2×2 flanker screen? A fast motion screen? How do we use these screens in the game plan to pick a defender to place in conflict?

Here we use the exact same blocking scheme, isolating the same linebacker, giving our QB the exact same read, but give the defense something new to adjust to:

Fast Motion

If the Will LB slides out of the box, we run the ball.  If the Will LB stays in the box, we throw the ball. The concept is identical to the above inside zone concept, yet we give a new wrinkle to the defense using fast motion.  Noel Mazzone used this type of motion throughout his stints as offensive coordinator at Arizona State and UCLA to great success.

In trips, we can run the exact same scheme with the exact same read:


This type of perimeter screen isn’t limited to inside zone.

Outside zone:


11 Personnel Trips Power:

Double Slot Power


These are just a few basics.  How you control the perimeter with your screen game really depends on how creative you want to get, identifying the box defender you want to isolate, and complimenting your base run game by removing a lead blocker and replacing him with a receiver running a screen.

Next up:

Developing an RPO Offense Part 2: Single Receiver Quick Passing Game Concepts 


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