One of the things I did as soon as the Seahawks acquired Percy Harvin was to start diagraming up variations of the read-option that would take advantage of his skills. I haven’t been able to share any of those because my napkin drawings simply don’t translate to the internet.
Yesterday I tried out a few different options for drawing out plays. They all suck, but one was “ok” enough that I could finally share some of my thoughts. There are 2 WRs, and 4 defensive backs not shown in any of my diagrams. The program I used for this didn’t have a large enough work space to show them.
They don’t figure into the keys for this play, so it really doesn’t matter anyways. If the defense brings a safety up to try and stop the read-option, then Wilson needs to audible into pass and take advantage of the single coverage on the outside.
There are many variations for the basic read-option, but the one diagramed below is the one that Seahawks used most of the time. The formation has 3 WRs, a TE, and Lynch beside Wilson on the weak side of the formation.
The read-option works because it produces a numbers advantage for the offense. By eliminating a DE without blocking him, the offense creates a situation where they have more blockers than there are defenders. The red line shows the paths of the unblocked DE. If he goes inside to help stop the run, then Wilson keep the ball. If he comes up the field, then Lynch get it.
The Falcons were the only team to contain Seattle’s read-option attack. The did it by telling the DE to make sure Lynch got the ball, and having both LBs sell out into the A gaps early. That way, they were able to get there before the Seahawks extra blocker could get to the 2nd level and block them.
It worked. On 12 read-option plays, Lynch got the ball 12 times and averaged just 2.3 yards per carry. The Falcons made the read-option predictable, and managed to negate the offense’s numbers advantage. And this is where Percy Harvin comes in. His speed changes everything in terms of a team trying to stop this play.
For starters, the Seahawks could do nothing different except run the read-option with Harvin in the backfield in stead of Lynch. His speed will allow him to get to the edge even on an inside handoff.
Not only will that stop the LBs from cheating into the A gaps, but it also makes it easier on the TE to get their block. It’s a win-win for the Seahawks.
And that is before we start to get creative. If you put Harvin in the slot and leave Lynch in the backfield, the options become endless. Not only is this a dangerous formation just for the passing game. It can create options within the running game that will scare every single NFL defensive coordinator.
The most interesting of the options (at least in my opinion) would be to use Harvin in motion from the outside in a jet-sweep or end-around.
This would give Wilson a 2nd option other than keeping the ball. It would also force the strong side LB to stay home and not attack the inside gaps. Even if Harvin never gets the ball, just the threat of his speed attacking the outside will open things up for Wilson and Lynch.
Another idea that would be much tougher to execute, but offers a higher potential for an explosive play, would be to run the read option directly to Harvin on the jet-sweep.
Getting the snap timed correctly wont be easy, but it completely changes all of keys that he defense looks for. For starters, the player being left unblocked of on the opposite side as the RB. Lynch would also move away from Wilson at the snap, instead of across in front of him. Defensive players will be left trying to diagnose the play w/o those keys, and will likely make a mistake.
The Seahawks could even remove Lynch from the formation and add in another TE or WR. If the Seahawks can figure out the timing of this version of the play, then they’d be able to run the read-option with any personnel grouping as long as Harvin is on the field.
And as I said, this is just scratching the surface. Harvin’s presence creates endless options for creating variations on this staple play in the Seahawk’s offense.