Every few years it seems as though a new offensive wrinkle bubbles up from the college ranks and takes the NFL by storm.
A decade ago it was the “Wildcat,” and about five years ago it was the Read-Option offense.
Last year, legions of NFL fans became acquainted with the letters ‘R’, ‘P’, and ‘O,’ which when combined stand for “Run-Pass Option.”
They’re a pain to defend, and as it so happens, some of the best RPO teams are in the NFC East.
Most fans would be surprised to learn that the New York Giants can even spell “RPO,” let alone be one of the most efficient teams at running the ball off of them.
Essentially, an RPO involves an offense calling a run and pass play at the same time. But rather than the quarterback calling an audible at the line of scrimmage before the snap, he reads a defender and makes the determination on which play to use after the snap.
In practice, this means that the offensive line run blocks while receivers release into routes. The quarterback then reads a key defender — usually a linebacker or safety — and attacks the concept they don’t defend. So, for instance, if a linebacker comes down to defend the run, the QB will throw a pass, and if the linebacker drops into coverage, the QB will hand the ball off.
It shouldn’t be much of a surprise to learn that the Giants were not among the league’s best team throwing the ball off of RPOs — what with their receiving corps destroyed by injuries. However, according to Pro Football Focus, the Giants WERE one of the most efficient teams in the NFL when it came to running the ball on RPO plays.
The Giants had one of the league’s worst rushing offenses in 2017, averaging just 96.8 yards per game and 3.9 yards per carry — underscored by the fact that Eli Manning was second on the team in rushing touchdowns.
And while disrespect for the Giants’ rushing attack probably played a role in their 5.4 yards per carry average on RPO runs, that alone doesn’t explain a 21 place jump from their 26th overall ranked rushing attack. Perhaps it was in part due to Eli Manning’s intelligence and ability to diagnose defenses, but those plays helped the Giants woeful rushing attack in 2017.
Hopefully that will hold true with new personnel on the offensive line, because the Giants could well see more of those plays in 2018. The Carolina Panthers, coordinated by Mike Shula, ran the fourth most RPO plays of any team last year with 104 over the course of the season. With Shula now helping to design the Giants’ offense, fans might want to get better acquainted with the concept.