Eagles D-Coordinator On How To Stop the Read Option

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Updated: September 9, 2013
RG3 & Eagles

New Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis spoke on Philadelphia radio recently and he addressed the issue of defending the read option offense.

“The quarterback now comes into play as a runner,” Davis said, breaking down the scheme with WIP’s Anthony Gargano and Glen Macnow. “It’s like the Wildcat. There’s an additional gap that the offense picks up when they let their quarterback run it. So now they’re taking that whole concept, and they are reading and blocking different elements of your edges of your defense. And they’ve got the extra gap, so you have got to work on it, and work on it, and WORK on it. And we have got an advantage in going against it all offseason and making the tweaks, and the players see — oh I did this this time, next time I can’t do that.

“And we’ve worked our way through it, where we believe we’ve got a good feel for the read option and how to stop it,” Davis continued. “Now, stopping it is another deal, because the [quarterbacks] who can really run it well, they’re reading it correctly, [so] it’s tough to be right all the time.

“But the challenge comes, for instance, when I was in Cleveland last year, and we were running a 4-3, and oh, we had one week to prepare for RGIII. Now, he didn’t play, but we spent so much time working the read option. And our players, although they might have known the answers on paper and we went over it in the meeting room, when we hit the field, they didn’t have it down. And it’s about the players having the adjustments and the techniques down, more than the coaches having answers for something.

“And I think that’s what the read option presents to all the defensive coordinators in the league right now,” Davis concluded. “We’ve been fortunate enough to run against it all offseason. So have the Washington Redskins. So the Redskins would have a pretty good feel on how to stop it also, because you practice against it all the time.”

Interesting. Davis and the defensive staff prepared for the read option in Cleveland last year, but wound up facing Kirk Cousins instead, who used a lot of bootlegs and rollouts to thrash the Browns instead. I think preparation can help a lot with defending the read option. Obviously, if you don’t prepare for the read option at all, as the Green Bay Packers did not against the 49ers last January, you get embarrassed on national television. Coming into the opener in 2013, the Packers prepared for months for the read option offense. They saw a bit of it and mostly shut it down, but they couldn’t stop the rest of the San Francisco offense. The Niners still scored 34 points and QB Colin Kaepernick still threw three TD passes and for over 400 yards.

Kirk Cousins demonstrated last year that the Redskins did not need the read option to win. Then Robert Griffin III did it again against Philadelphia in week 16, when he couldn’t run because of his knee injury and settled for picking the Eagles defense apart with his arm. The Eagles can prepare all they want for the read option and they may very well shut it down tonight. But shutting down the read option isn’t shutting down the Redskins offense — and that’s what matters for Washington.