Tagging Quick Pass Game with Zone Read

By: Coach Alex Besaw
Twitter: coach_besaw

One of my favorite concepts in the spread offense is tagging quick pass game with zone read. I want to give my QB the option to throw the ball or run it, based on the pre-snap alignment of the defense. The goal on every play is to create a number advantage by emptying out the box and attacking the weakness of the defense by either running or passing the football.

The concepts that I’m going to go over are basic tags that some coaches are already implementing. Most of these tags come in a 3×1 formation because I find that this formation is the easiest way to create a number advantage. You can use these basic concepts and build on them to fit your style of offense.

Tagging Quick Pass Game with Zone Read

When tagging quick pass game with zone read, I’m able to bundle 4 options in 1 play with both pass and run options. The options are determined by pre and post snap reads from the QB.

After the QB gets the signal from the sideline, he immediately scans the defense from left to right and back again. In a 3×1 formation, The QB will identify the depth of the CB, how many numbers are in the box, and how many numbers are to the three receiver side. The rule in tagging quick pass game with zone read is to go where the offense has a number advantage.

Trips Read Bubble-Out

Figure 1

4 Options in 1:
Option 1: Out
Option 2: Bubble
Option 3: Inside Zone
Option 4: QB keep off read

This play is in 3×1 formation against a 1 high Safety. Zone read to the left is tagged with Bubble and Out. The single receiver side will run a 5 yard out while the three receiver side will run bubble to the #3 receiver.

In this look, the S is cheated to the box to help defend the run by aligning just outside the LT. He’s close enough to say that there is 7 defenders in the box, which puts the defense at a +1 number advantage in stopping the read option. Right away, the QB should know that the read is dead because the offense does not have the numbers.

The QB will then look at the depth of the CB and the numbers to the 3 receiver side and see that he has enough cushion from the CB to throw the five yard out. The QB will receive the ball from the center, quick set his feet and fire the ball out to X on the five yard out.

The QB also has an option to throw the ball to the bubble on the right side of the field. Here, the offense has a number advantage with a 3 on 2 matchup. The Free Safety is deep enough that he is not an immediate threat to stop the bubble and will have to make an open field tackle.

The QB has the freedom to either throw the ball to the five yard out or the bubble to the right. Wherever he goes with the football, he will receive the snap from center, quick set his feet and quickly get the ball out to his receiver.

Trips Read Quick-Slant

Figure 2

4 Options in 1:
Option 1: Slant
Option 2: Quick
Option 3: Inside Zone
Option 4: QB keep off read

This is a similar look on defense against this Read Quick-Slant. The small difference is the S is now completely tucked into the box for run support and is unable to get into the passing lane of the backside slant from the single receiver.

As the QB begins to get his reads before the snap, he will quickly note that the defense has put 7 men in the box and the read is no longer an option because the offense doesn’t have a number advantage. He will then look to the single receiver side and the trips side.

With S in the box as a run defender, the window is open for the X to run a slant on the backside. With the Free Safety shaded to the three receiver side, this slant will be more skinny than usual to avoid running to coverage and allowing S to sit underneath the route. Against this look, the QB has the green light to throw the slant.

The offense has a number advantage to the right with a 3 on 2 matchup. The $ is playing tight to the LOS and aligned closer to the Y which will affect how Y and A will block for the #1 receiver on the Quick. The Y and A will combo block the $ to take care of the immediate threat. The Y will block his outside pad until A has control, and then he will climb to the CB. Even though the $ is tight to the LOS and some coaches may shy away from throwing the bubble, this is still an option if the QB wants to take it.

The QB will have control of where he goes with the football. If he’s not comfortable throwing the bubble against that look, then he can always throw the slant on the backside.

Trips Read Bubble-Slant

Figure 3

4 Options in 1:
Option 1: Slant
Option 2: Bubble
Option 3: Inside Zone
Option 4: QB keep off read

In figure 3 the defense is still in a single high look, but now the offense is faced with fewer numbers in the box. The S is now playing as the apex defender to the single receiver side. The QB will identify this apex defender in his pre-snap read and will know that the slant route is being taking away from him based on the alignment of the S.

That brings the QB’s pre-snap reads to the number of guys in the box and the numbers to the three receiver side. The defense has now put 6 guys in the box to defend the run. I tell my QB that if there are 6 in the box or less, then we can run the ball. Some coaches may disagree with that and say there has to be 5 guys or less. I’m personally okay running read option with a 6 man box because I still have double teams at the initial point of attack (even fronts) and I can get everyone blocked with the QB reading the backside DE. That being said, the read option is now in play as a post-snap read for the QB.

There is also a number advantage to the three receiver side as the offense has another 3 on 2 matchup. If the QB is confident enough to throw a strike to the bubble, then he has the freedom to make that call and stretch the defense horizontally on the bubble route.

Trips Read Bubble Out

Figure 4

4 Options in 1:
Option 1: Out
Option 2: Bubble
Option 3: Inside Zone
Option 4: QB keep off read

This is the same concept as before in Figure 1, but now the offense is faced against a two high safety look. The same pre-snap reads for the QB applies as he identifies the depth of the CB for the Out, numbers in the box for Read Option, and the numbers to the three receiver side for the Bubble.

Right now, Option 1 and Option 2 are both in play for the QB in this pre-snap look. Against a two high safety look, I prefer the single receiver to either run Hitch, Out, or a Go route, to avoid running into coverage with the near safety on routes that are breaking in.

Trips Read Quick-Go

Figure 5

4 Options in 1:
Option 1: Go
Option 2: Quick
Option 3: Inside Zone
Option 4: QB keep off read

If the CB has a tendency to play tight against the single receiver side, then I will tag the single receiver to run a GO route. For me, that would be anything under 5 yards. Just like before, the QB will Identify the depth of the CB. If he sees the CB rolled up under 5 yards, then he has the freedom to throw the Go route to the single receiver.

The next pre-snap read will be the numbers in the box. Here, the defense puts 6 guys in the box to defend the run. As I stated earlier, a 6 man box = run the ball. You can’t go wrong running zone read against a 6 man box with the QB reading the backside DE. If the QB doesn’t like the quick pass game to either side, then he will snap the ball and go to his post-snap read for read option to the left.

In this 3×1 look, the offense has a number advantage to the three receiver side yet again. The QB has the freedom to throw the quick route to the right with Y and A blocking the corner and overhang. The Free Safety is not an immediate threat and will have to make an open field tackle 5-10 yards down field. That’s something I’ll take every time in this look.

Spread Read Bubble

spread read bubble
Figure 6

4 Options in 1:
Option 1: Bubble
Option 2: Bubble
Option 3: Inside Zone
Option 4: QB keep off read

In this spread, 2×2 formation, zone read is tagged with bubble routes from the slot receivers. The QB will pre-snap read the apex players and their alignment in relationship with the slot receiver.

Right away the QB will notice that there is no apex player over the slot receiver on the left side of the field. That’s because the defense is in their even front with two high safeties and a 6 man box. The defense can only have one apex player outside the box and he is aligned to the right side of the field on top of A.

The pre-snap read for the QB will tell him that he should throw the ball to the bubble route on the left.

If the defense rolls coverage to a single high safety by bringing down the S on top of Y, then both bubble routes are dead since the defense has determined to defend the perimeter. This will take the QB to his post-snap read of running read option against the 6 man box.

Summary of Tagging Quick Pass Game with Zone Read

Keep the Defense Honest

Tagging these simple, yet effective quick pass game with zone read will force the defense to declare what front they are in as well as their coverage. It will also prevent the defense from cheating coverage guys into the box to defend the run, and emptying out the box to defend the perimeter. This will make for simple pre and post snap reads for the QB and will lead to good decision making.

Stay On Schedule

Tagging quick game with zone read is perfect in early downs to get the offense moving. These quick pass game concepts are high percentage throws for the QB to complete. The WR’s on the bubbles and quicks should be coached to get 5 yards, and anything more than that is a bonus. They only get one move once they catch the football before they get upfield and fight for 5 yards. Each option in these tagged concepts are designed to keep the offense in rhythm and on schedule for the next play.

Keep It Simple

Don’t over complicate this. Sometimes coaches get bored with simple, yet effective concepts and think they have to reinvent the wheel. Don’t do that. If you keep it simple for players, and they get enough reps for each option during practice, then they’ll play faster with more efficiency on game day.

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