The Green Bay Packers have a robust run-pass option (RPO) game they run in every game on every drive. Nearly every time the offense is in shotgun to run the ball, there’s always a backside alert bubble, swing, slant, etc., that quarterback Aaron Rodgers has the ability to throw.
This season, Pro Football Focus charts the Packers as running 199 RPO plays with 133 rushing attempts and 66 pass attempts. Pro Football Reference only charts 62 total (49 pass, 13 run) and that seems unusually low considering there’s almost always a tagged passing concept on the backside of the play for Rodgers.
On Sunday versus the Dolphins, there was one RPO concept in particular that stood out mainly because it’s one the Packers have never really run from under center. All their RPOs are typically run out of shotgun because of how that alignment lets Rodgers read the post-snap picture easier.
In the Packers’ RPO game, Rodgers usually determines his read pre-snap, but shotgun allows him to read the post-snap rotation if needed to confirm whether or not to give or pass. An under center RPO is always 100% determined pre-snap because the quarterback is under center and cannot utilize the mesh point to carry out the read post-snap.
Most teams running the Shanahan tree offenses operate more from under center than the Sean McVay and Matt LaFleur offshoots. In those cases, the quarterback is given the backside alert slant on a run play where the read becomes a pre-snap box read.
But this isn’t something that they just freely run. Usually, it occurs after the offense already determined they can get an “advantageous situation” as the diagram above points out. Against loaded fronts with no 2nd level support in the weak hook area backside, the quick slant becomes the option (the ”advantageous situation”).
In their opening play of the game here, the Packers are running a pin and pull sweep to the right but the tell here for the offense is how the defense aligns to the tight end side on the left in an eagle front “4-0-4” with a 4i-technique defensive tackle in the B-gap, a wide-9 technique outside the tight end, and a linebacker over the tight end in a 60 alignment (linebacker alignments are designated the same as defensive line techniques but in multiples of 10).
The play gave the Packers some information to rip off a cheap 11 yards on the next drive when Rodgers went under center and quickly threw the backside alert slant.
The RPO here is an outside zone run with backside alert slant or “dart.” The offense aligns with one tight end to the strong side. Lazard has the backside alert slant.
Rodgers motions the second tight end over to the right, getting the defense to set their strength away from the backside. They are in an eagle front again and have a 60 technique LB over the first inline tight end, a 9-tech defensive end, and the strong safety walked up outside the second tight end off the ball. The pre-snap tells Rodgers that the play goes to the backside slant.
The post-snap throw is almost immediate. Rodgers fakes the zone toss and throws the slant to Lazard for a 13 yard gain. With no help in the weak hook, Rodgers easily hits Lazard over the middle.
The only other time I can remember the Packers running this recently came from the shotgun in the game at Tampa Bay in 2020:
Here are some other Shanahan tree offenses running the same play where you can see the call comes against defenses with no backside help in the weak hook/seam area.