Lee: A Brief Dialogue on RPOs in the NFL | NFL News, Rankings & Stats


There are things that move me instantly, and always will.

Bad moves are at the top of the list. Almost every week I castigate a poor three-technique linebacker or middle linebacker who does his best to execute the delicate balance between violence, biomechanics, and the fundamental laws of geometry and physics.

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Poor clock management also lives in this neighborhood. I still remember how the Los Angeles Chargers – Dallas Cowboys season ended, and it still bothers me that an abominable approach to the end of this football game was rewarded by Greg Zuerlein who had a much larger basket. long than it needed.

Nothing compares to RPO talk, however. My most trusted colleagues have heard me denounce the run-pass option every time it is mentioned, to a degree that makes me wonder if I suffer from Pavlovian conditioning.

My problem with the concept has nothing to do with the functionality of the game, although it would be nice if the refs could see the bigger humans on the pitch more than three feet from the pitch. The problem here is the big disconnect in our understanding of the contextual factors that explain what makes each RPO different, and Why They are named when They are named.

For starters, there is a certain type of aesthetic gratification that viewers and analysts get from the passes thrown during RPO calls, in a way that makes it easy to assume that the general function of an RPO is akin to a pass throwing. game or “pop”. Of course, there is merit in using the concept in this way, which you can see from an offense like the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins lead the league in “drawn” RPOs – meaning the quarterback is looking to pitch) by 18 losses and are the first in yardage with a margin of over 200. By almost all raw measures and many rate statistics, the Dolphins are the best RPO passing team in the NFL.

The piece that completes the puzzle and explains how Miami has created such a chasm in its RPO production is in its medium target depth. Of the 13 teams with at least 25 RPO pullovers this season, Miami leads the group with an average target depth of just under 5.5 yards (almost a full yard ahead of second-placed Buffalo). Slopes (29%), bland (20%) and flat roads (18%) make up more than two thirds Large RPO routes receivers are run in Miami, but only make up 36% of the routes of the other 31 teams.

Functionally and philosophically, the Dolphins use their RPO passes in a way the rest of the NFL doesn’t – to cover up for the fact that they can’t move the ball to the ground at all. At the start of Week 14, Miami ranks last in yards per carry (3.3). This follows, given that an offensive line is more likely to block a downward RPO concept like a quick play pass than the typical zone pattern, to protect the quarterback.

Team RPO Sweaters Yds / Att. Avg. Target depth EPA by RPO Pull
dolphins 78 8.2 5.4 .303
Chefs 60 5.9 2.4 .260
Steelers 56 6.2 4.6 -118
Chargers 50 7.3 3.6 .357
Invoices 49 6.6 4.6 .332

Visually, one can get the impression that an RPO transfer is a concession to a defense’s covering capacity. For many teams, however, the whole point of an RPO call is to get the ball through a favorable box – or to get an unblockable defender away from the point of attack. The RPO’s top five “give” (rushed attempts) – Arizona, Kansas City, Washington, Green Bay and Philadelphia – average four or more yards per carry on those calls, and four of the five earn more than a third of their footage before contact.

The similarity in production, despite varying quality of running backs and offensive line talent across these five teams, can also be partly explained by the average passing target depth of each quarterback. Is it that to try. Each of those five teams have an average target depth of less than three meters (two offenses are less than one meter), and only the Chiefs have attempted more than 50 RPO draws from that group.

Team RPO gives Yds per transport Yds before transport% % RPO Gives with positive EPA
Arizona 128 5.2 32% 41%
Kansas City 118 4.6 51% 40%
Washington 109 3.9 42% 45%
Green berry 109 4.2 35% 47%
Philadelphia cream 103 5.0 42% 43%

Wide landing screens (often bubble or “now” roads) account for 38% of the roads traveled for these five teams, suggesting that these teams are using RPO as a more authentic extension of the racing game. Offensive linemen can work downhill, and an offense can retain a more in-depth menu of rushed concepts, knowing that the quarterback won’t have to settle in to throw a tilt into a deeper window.

With that in mind, it would be incomplete to make a declarative statement about the effectiveness of a team’s RPO calls without the context of what the intended outcome of the offense might have been. This innovation in football deserved its own classification, conceptually, and our understanding of the layers within the world of RPOs will ultimately color our consumption of the game.

Success in the options game manifests itself in many ways. For this reason, unfortunately, the RPO is not going anywhere over the next half decade.



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