Questions on the zone read

Submitted by Adamantium on September 1st, 2010 at 12:06 AM

Paging any X's and O's types here on the boards...

So, I know only the basics of the zone read (I know that the QB is reading the backside DE - if he crashes, keep, if he sits, give), but I'd like to brush up a little bit so I can better understand it during this season.

So it seems like whenever I see the play run, the DE doesn't observe the tidy little dichotomy of crash vs. sit like he does so obediently in NCAA 11. That is, he never just stands straight up and waits to react to the QB, but instead he usually fires out of his stance in some direction. My question is: what exactly is the QB reading on the DE? Is he looking to see if his first step is downfield vs. lateral? That seems like a subtle, hardly perceptible thing to judge in a split second. Is there a more concrete threshold that our QBs are looking out for? Like, say, does the QB only consider it a crash if the DE winds up on the inside shoulder of where the backside OT was pre-snap?

Follow-up question: If the QB does keep the ball, he sometimes (always?) has a third option with the bubble screen on the backside. What should the QB be keying on in this situation? The backside safety? The corner over the bubbling WR?



September 1st, 2010 at 12:10 AM ^

It depends on if the corner bites or not. Usually if the QB rolls away from the corners side then he gets the deep third. This would allow for a good bubble screen on the backside.


September 1st, 2010 at 12:39 AM ^

That's actually the video that got me thinking about this. I'm familiar with the basics the he discusses here as well as the scrape exchange, or simply "the exchange" as he calls it. I guess I'd just like to be able to judge for myself whether or not our QBs are making the right reads in the zone read this year.


September 1st, 2010 at 2:36 AM ^

There are a lot of split second reads that the quarterback in our system has to make.  On the zone read he's looking to see if the defensive end crashes or comes up field.  This can be determined very quickly (within the backside DE's 1st two steps).  Once he determines whether or not the DE is crashing or heading up field then he gives it to the RB, or keeps it himself.  However on every zone read there is generally a bubble screen off of it.  Those reads at the line of scrimmage are crucial.  The fact that Tate and Denard were able to pick it up relatively quickly last season bodes very well for this upcoming season.  The more experience you have within our system the quicker you're able to determine how the defense is trying to defend us, what we can do to counter attack their attack, and of course the initial read becomes easier and quicker to make.  With all of this in mind it's clear to see why we turned the ball over so much last season.  Poor reads kill a play almost instantly.  Couple that with poor offensive line production and you have a recipe for disaster.  This year we will see a lot of improvement in this area of our system, which will also help us open up other areas that may not have been explored before.


September 1st, 2010 at 3:04 AM ^

a scrape-exchange, the read is now the LB, not DE.  The backside OT will block the DE.  It will go for a big play if there's a well blocked play and the runner can cut back against the grain because the LB is likely to run himself out of play.  The coach likely is going to call for triple option play(whether if it's zone read to bubble screen or a zone read to the pitch to the RB).

RR combated the scrape-exchange by going with triple option play(the one with zone read to bubble screen).  If the LB goes after the WR, the QB keeps the ball and cut upward for a nice gain.  If the LB choose to go after the QB, the QB can simply throw the ball to the slot WR for a good gain provided that there's good downfield blocking.


September 1st, 2010 at 6:53 AM ^

The backside OT doesn't always block the backside DE on a scrape exchange.  The OT doesn't know before the play whether it's a scrape exchange or not, so he's going to ignore the DE most times.  The point of the scrape exchange is to convince the QB that the DE is crashing so the quarterback keeps the ball, and then for the LB to come flying around that backside edge to stop the QB in the backfield. 

A good OT can sometimes make the read, but often both the backside DE and the scrape exchange 'backer will go unblocked.


September 1st, 2010 at 3:04 AM ^

Generally, you can usually see enough to make a call.  Remember that nobody's blocking the DE.  If his first 2 steps are flowing with the playside action, keep the ball.  if he's setting up to play contain, give the ball.  The easy tell is looking at the shoulders/hips.  If they're angled in he's probably committed enough to chasing the ball carrier (he won't be able to turn 180 degrees fast enough to chase the QB).  If the shoulders are square to the line, he's probably playing contain.

Keep in mind that with an athletic QB, you can make the wrong read and still get away with it if you beat that DE 1 on 1.  (Forcier's 4th down run vs. ND is the extreme example of this.  Watch the play again, the DE comes straight upfield, Tate jukes him.  ND was run blitzing the middle with their LBs, and their safeties had moved up to the other side, leaving Forcier untouched to score a TD.  That play could have easily been a 5 yard loss if Tate didn't break that DE's ankles).  That's both good and bad.  Good because its nice to be able to make a broken play gain positive yardage, but bad if your QB does it too much.  This happened last year, where many plays should have been gives to Minor/Brown, but instead Tate kept it and took unnecessary punishment.


September 1st, 2010 at 7:40 AM ^

but why doesn't a DE just fake body language,(hips/ shoulder tell) and/ or take 1 step one way, and the 2 step in the opopsite direction. It's seems easy enough, and given that there are more read option teams out there, it just wouldn't be for 1 game every year. It also seems like a senior/ experienced DE would be able to do this pretty easily.

Space Coyote

September 1st, 2010 at 10:52 AM ^

Will they jab step or something on occassion? Sure.  But faking body language and beyond that is just going to put them in no man's land so they can't make a play either way.  The DE has to essentially commit to one or the other, distorting your body angles and stuff will just leave him off balance and unable to make either play.


September 1st, 2010 at 8:19 AM ^

If the offense is reading the DE on the right side from their perspective, the qb should be looking at the DE's left shoulder ( the right shoulder from the offense's view). If that shoulder turns in, its a pull read because he is either running down the line, or would be in a bad position to spin back and get the qb which is nearly impossible with a mobile qb like Denard, Tate, or Devin.


September 1st, 2010 at 9:08 AM ^

I would like to see UM run the read-option more this year. It is a tricky play to stop, and the more reps we get running it, the better they will excecute it in games. It's the bread and butter of RR's offense, and everything else builds from that play. When the zone-read is working well, the passing lanes are wide open. This offense is built to get chunks of yards quickly, and could lead to us scoring a ton of points this year. Let's just hope our defense can hold the opposition to less than 21.


September 1st, 2010 at 9:21 AM ^

My sense is that you are always looking to get a numeric advantage as far as blocking and getting skill players into open space.  The most basic play is reading the DE and figuring out in a split second the best way to play him.  So you give the ball if he doesn't go in strong pursuit of the running back.  In this case he has taken himself out of the play and the frontside of the running play has a numerical advantage so the blockers can double-team and create a crease for the running back.

If the DE does show strong pursuit of the play then the QB keeps.  Again, the DE has taken himself out of the play by running strongly towards the frontside to try and make a tackle as it's his only way to get involved if the running back takes the football.  His momentum is in effect blocking him and a good spread n' shred QB should be able to run past him with little trouble, putting a skill player alone in open space.  In this case the QB is attacking the backside of the play.

I think the bubble screen becomes a weapon when the defense begin to crowd the box with extra defenders to try and stop the run.  This might be a pre-snap read by the QB in shotgun.  If the DBs begin to move up into run support then the QB has the option to throw the bubble screen.  The idea being to get the ball to a skill guy in open space.