After running just a handful of run-pass option (RPOs) plays in Mac Jones’ rookie season, the New England Patriots have made the concept more prevalent in their offensive scheme this season.
The scheme is meant to put mental stress on the defense as the quarterback has the option to either hand the football off or throw it to a receiver based off the defenses movements. Throughout the season, New England has mainly run RPOs paired with a simple bubble screen.
“I’d say the general concept of the RPOs is inside runs versus outside passes,” Bill Belichick told reporters on Thursday. “If you want to throw the ball down the field, just throw it down the field. If you’re going to try and throw it behind the guys then that’s really was play-action RPO. It’s the same concept, timing on it is a little different but it’s really the same concept. That’s what play action generally does is draw somebody up and throw it behind them.
“If you run the ball inside and throw the ball inside and everybody’s inside, I’m not really sure what you’re trying to accomplish. Unless you’re trying to throw it behind them, then that’s the concept I just talked about.”
Coming out of Alabama, Jones tore opposing defenses apart with these RPO schemes. His senior season, he went 73-of-78 with 890 yards, 10 touchdowns, and zero interceptions for a near-perfect passer rating of 153.8 within these schemes. However unlike what he’s done in New England, Jones’ main method of attack was more downfield off these actions — such as the commonly run glance route below.
Throughout Jones’ professional career, New England has barley dialed up any in-breakers off their RPOs. One of their lone attempts came last week against Las Vegas, but the play was batted down at the line of scrimmage.
“The idea of the RPO is basically to attack the width of the field,” Belichick explained. “If you want to throw behind them, then that’s a different concept - similar to a play-action pass that you throw behind the front part of the coverage.”
Jones has been on record several times this season explaining how he likes the RPO plays - even mentioning how they use to bother Nick Saban and his defenses throughout practice. It seemed like an easy choice for New England to try and replicate this success for their 24-year old quarterback, but they have yet to do so to it’s fullest extent.
“I don’t know, you’ll have to go back and watch the Alabama games or whatever, I don’t really know,” Belichick said when asked about Jones’ collegiate success with them. “If the concept is for the defense to pack the middle of the field and then you run the ball inside and then throw the ball inside, I’m not really sure I understand what the point of that is. Maybe I’m missing it.”