Raiders Can Use RPO’s To Overcome Steelers’ Defensive Line

With both starting guards out on Sunday, the Las Vegas Raiders will have their hands full in Pittsburgh. However, the Raiders can use some creative plays from last Monday to gain an advantage.

How it works

Quickly, if you’ve been living under a rock, RPO’s have taken over modern football. All RPO’s start as run plays, and the offensive line blocks them as such. The kicker is that they have quick timing-based pass patterns built-in. Thus, the ‘Run/Pass Option‘. If ran correctly, they can be used to take advantage of an aggressive defense.

For the Raiders and Jon Gruden, they’ll need this versus Pittsburgh. After blitzing the Buffalo Bills just twice last week, head coach Mike Tomlin made it clear that would not be the case going forward.

“What we did is by no way indicative of what we intend our intentions to be this week, or our personality moving forward. We did what we had to win this game.” 

Typically one of the most blitz-heavy teams in the NFL, the Steelers will likely do so again against Derek Carr.

RPO’s can help

Carr has been great against the blitz in recent seasons. However, the Steelers’ pass rush combined with the Raiders’ banged-up offensive line presents a fair share of challenges. This is where the RPO can come into play.

On the above play, you can see this is a run play by design. However, if the skill guys on the other side of the field aren’t involved, have them run a pass route! On this one, Darren Waller runs a simple bubble screen away from the formation. Carr decides he doesn’t like the look for the run play and decides to flip it outside for a good gain.

Similar to the other play, on this one, the Raiders have Hunter Renfrow run a slant over the middle of the field. With Renfrow’s uncanny feel for spacing and route running, this play always has a high success rate for Las Vegas.

If the Steelers intend to take advantage of the Raiders’ decimated offensive line, they could opt to overwhelm them with blitzes. An easy way to neutralize this is the RPO, as it creates conflict within the defense. For linebackers, do they attack the ball carrier, or do they cover the pass? Either way, they are wrong. For edge rushers, they cannot prioritize the quarterback. He’ll simply just hand it off to the back.

Running RPO’s is a step forward for Gruden. In his time at ESPN, he often referred to them by a different acronym, ‘Ridiculous Protection Offense.’ Fast forward to 2021, and they are a mainstay of the Gruden playbook. He even added players such as Hunter Renfrow, Henry Ruggs III, and Kenyan Drake, who have thrived running these plays in the past. Now that the Vegas play-caller has warmed up to the idea of the play, it’s time to exploit them.

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*Top Photo: Associated Press/Rick Scuteri

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