The preseason is all wrapped up and it is officially game week in Titletown! Packer fans have been waiting for this week since January. Week one is one of the most exciting weeks of football. It is especially exciting in Green Bay as the Packers kickoff their 100th season against the rival Chicago Bears. Ever since the final preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs I have been diving head first in to the all 22 film to break down Matt Nagy’s offense. This will be Nagy’s first season as head coach of the Bears. Nagy was previously the offensive coordinator of the Chiefs for two years and before that he was the quarterbacks coach in Kansas City for two years as well. I know that Andy Reid did the play calling during Nagy’s stint as the offensive coordinator but he had implemented a lot of things into the offense, which I saw was fairly similar to what he was running during the preseason with the Bears. I took to the all 22 film from his time with the Chiefs rather than clips of the Bears preseason games simply because the all 22 shows route concepts, which I found was important when scouting his concepts. I’m going to share with you some things that Nagy does with his offense as well as what Mike Pettine might do to counter it. Without me rambling on much longer lets look at the film.


The RPO (run pass option) is the latest trend sweeping the NFL. This can largely be attributed to the college offenses we see in this day and age. Nagy ran his fair share of it during his time in Kansas City. Here is the basic breakdown of the RPO:

  • The quarterback reads the EMOL (end man on-line) for his give/ pull read. If the EMOL plays the run the quarterback pulls and gets his eyes downfield on routes. If the EMOL plays the quarterback then it is an automatic give read.
  • There are built-in routes in every RPO. To the wide side of the formation above you can see a bubble look is ran
  • Offensive lineman will usually block zone in this concept.

Keep you eyes on the EMOL to the wide side of the formation. Notice how he turns and shows his numbers, indicating he is playing the quarterback. That is a sure sign to Alex Smith to give the ball to his back. Notice also the zone blocking scheme up front. Each lineman is trying to reach the player shaded on them. It is critical for these lineman to get a strong lateral step as soon as the ball is snapped.

Had the EMOL played the run, Smith would pull and hit his bubble route.

Here is RPO #2. Again, another give read. I really thought Smith could have pulled this and hit the bubble. Notice also that both of these RPO looks are from a 3X1 formation. To me, 3X1 is one of the hardest formations to defend. A pro set, as the offense initial shows, is a balanced formation. Cover 2, quarters coverage, and 2 under are all good coverage calls that can be made. Once they motion in to a 3X1 look though, it can throw off everything. Defenses have to be quick to adjust in the secondary.

The offense again comes out in a 3X1 look, motioning #3 into the backfield and running another RPO.

Starting to see a trend here?

Smith reads this one well. EMOL crashes hard inside to take the run away so Smith pulls and runs. The motion man runs, you guessed it, a bubble to the wide side. Smith gets his eyes on the defensive back and sees that he plays the bubble so he tucks it and turns up field.

If I’m Mike Pettine here is what I’m saying: If 3X1 is shown, especially with motion, then be alert for the RPO.

The next question that comes in to mind is “What is the best way to defend the RPO?” To me the answer has always been two things. The first is to play man coverage. Man coverage can cover up a lot of mistakes in the secondary against a set like this because it takes a lot of thinking out of the play. Players don’t have to pattern match everything. They know who their man is and they play on him. If the bubble is ran they simply follow their man and take it away. Slants, out routes and hitches are other routes popular with the RPO.

The second answer is to incorporate a lot of pre-snap movement and bring pressure. The RPO can be hard on the quarterback if he can’t get a clean read on the EMOL. Protection with the RPO is also very shaky. If 5 or 6 players are coming then it can be hard for a quarterback to get his eyes up and find his routes. If I’m Pettine I’m telling the defense to get pressure on the quarterback and be in his face all night.

One Back Sets

One back sets are common with every NFL offense. Nagy liked to run a lot with only one back. 11 personnel (1 back, 1 tight end) was a look he favored, be it under center or in the gun. Here he dials up a zone concept to the short side of the boundary side of the field. When I say that it simply means the short side of the field. Boundary is always towards the short side, field is always the wide side.

Watch what the center and the right guard do here. This is known as a fold block. This is done because the right guard has a better angle to defeat the shaded lineman rather than the center. The center folds underneath the guard and works upfield. The Cowboys mike linebacker, Sean Lee, does a great job of reading this run, scraping downhill and making the stop. This is what we need to see out of the Packers linebackers. That is a technique scrape and tackle.

Two Back Sets

Nagy does roll with some two back sets from time to time. Here is a simple toss play out of an I right formation. The slot player will actually motion in and crack on the EMOL. Since the crack block is called, the tackle can loop out and lead block on the toss. The tackle will usually kick out the wide player with the fullback taking away any inside threats. The Packers have to be on their toes when defending a toss play. Edge plays have to fight to the outside if a crack happens. If they do happen to get washed down, the secondary force player, usually the strong safety, has to take out one of the lead blocks. The defense must rally to the ball carrier before he turns upfield. It is one of the oldest plays in football but still effective today.

I think I can speak for everyone when I say how excited I am to get back to regular season football. The Packers had a decent preseason but we didn’t see a whole lot out of the starters, which is understandable. My prediction for the game is that the Packers win by 17. I feel like the defense will be up to the task to shut down this offense and get the season started on the right foot. The biggest thing I am looking for with this group is consistency. If you get a tackle for loss, big play, or takeaway then keep the foot on the gas and don’t give up. It is key that this defense brings it every down. No plays off!

The Packers take on the Bears in prime time September 9th.

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