Football Fundamentals: RPO Pass Concepts - Quick Hitters

Now that we've covered the "read" offense and concepts that occur behind the LOS, let's now turn our focus down field a bit. This is where the RPO scheme is currently most dangerous, both at the lower levels, as well as at the college and NFL level. This is the quick passing concepts that are tied to the run threat. Let's take a look.


The slant (or slants) is the most common quick RPO pass route. It's a great concept to add-on to any outside run scheme, as the slant is one of the most difficult routes to cover 1-on-1, and also it attacks the vacated area opened up by the backside defender chasing the play.


The next two are variations on a theme, in that they still include a slant route, but now the primary receiver is the outside receiver and the inside receiver is running defenders out of the play. These concepts become more important as more and more teams decide they want to defend RPOs with man coverage. So instead of reading a guy vacating a zone, you may be more inclined to read a throwing lane becoming clear (effectively, if the defender over the slot chases bubble, you throw slant with a clear window; if he stays to cover the slant, you throw bubble; if numbers stay outside the box, such as the LB doesn't bit inside, you run).

Husker Chalk Talk


Similar idea here, but now we're going to run a slot fade instead of a bubble. Because the fade can be read quickly, you're doing the same thing as on the slant-bubble. If apex or "half" player to the concept side attacks run, you look to pass. From there, you read your standard quick progression on the slant or the fade. A lot of teams will run this as a PAP because in the RPO form, the fade needs to be read quickly (i.e. likely not enough time to read fade vs back-shoulder). A bigger benefit of this for the RPO standpoint is that the slot fade acts as a natural rub for the slant.


Throwing the hitch allows for narrow splits to be utilized in the RPO game. When reading an ILB, if he chases, you aren't simply following right behind him. Instead, you are giving yourself some width while maintaining spacing from the outside receiver.

Similarly, this is the best way of combating CB blitzes. In that case, the coverage typically comes from deep at the safety level and they are most concerned with getting beat over the top. As they are playing far off at the snap, they don't have proper position to play tight coverage immediately, and so have to give more cushion. This is when an RPO with an outside WR running a hitch is valuable.


Like the hitch RPO, snag RPO will allow you to utilize the outside WR on a quick come back route. Find the vacated area under the defense and sit, and then work out.

As an outside WR, this will generally be underneath a deep route from the slot (which will act as a sort of shield from deep coverage help). As in inside WR running a snag, you are running into the vacated zone of the LBs chasing the play.

Quick Out

For teams that like to cheat to help against the run with inside leverage, the quick out scheme can allow for easy separation. This is particularly effective against Cover 4 or 6 where the safety is tasked with coming down to cover the slot (or the LB is responsible for covering the flat).

via Gfycat

Diagonal 0

This sounds like a deep route, but to run it as an RPO without an extended read, it becomes simpler. You can utilize this as a triple option or as a single read to the outside. For the route concept (Diagonal 9 or Fade-Flat), the QB's eyes are drifting to the CB. If he drops, you can hit the flat (assuming a throw read), if he stays put, the ball has to be thrown on a line to the open grass. This isn't a standard fade, this is more of a stop-fade to attack the vacated grass near the sideline against a 2-high defense.


The pop pass is going to be a second or third level read in the direction of the run threat. In this case, it is often a QB sweep or some sort of outside QB run play. If safeties are staying deep, read the LB, and have the "popper" sit in the vacated area and throw over top of the first line of the defense.


The pipe pass is typically away from the run play. It's still a pop pass, but the receiver is running down the pipe to the backside of the play.

In some cases here, you have to start being careful on what is an RPO and what is just a play action pass (PAP). Many of these concepts will be run from both, but for an RPO, the read has to be quicker and needs to be simplified (often aided by the run action) in order to get the ball out before men get down field. For instance, Oklahoma ran quite a bit of the pop pass the past year, but ran it as a true PAP, not RPO

Also keep that in mind for our next post, as we get to third level reads and what some college offenses are doing there.