The Power Run Option (PRO) is not a new concept, but its resurgence in the modern NFL is a testament to its effectiveness. This scheme fuses elements of traditional power run plays with the decision-making principles of the option. This results in an offensive play that can be particularly confounding for defenses, and there’s a reason why savvy NFL coaches like Shane Steichen are implementing it more than ever.
1. Dual-Threat Quarterback Utilization
One of the most significant shifts in the NFL over the past decade has been the emergence of dual-threat quarterbacks. These are players capable of both throwing accurately and running effectively. The Power Run Option naturally fits the skill set of these quarterbacks, allowing them to use their athleticism and decision-making in tandem. When a QB can potentially keep the ball and make a significant gain on the ground, it stresses the defense significantly. This is particularly effective with a rookie quarterback like Anthony Richardson, who, despite is inexperience, is exceptionally comfortable making these kinds of reads and decisions.
2. Puts Defenders in Conflict
The core principle of any option play is to put a specific defender in a position of conflict. This defender must decide whether to commit to the running back or attempt to defend the quarterback. Historically, this has often been a read of a defensive end choosing to rush the passer or stay back in to defend the run or hold the edge.
The Colts' version of the power run option may read an inside linebacker or strong safety. If these defenders bite up to defend a possible hand-off, a passing lane will form. If they stay back to defend the pass, Indianapolis gains an advantage on the ground. Based on one defender's action, this simple read for the quarterback essentially takes that defender out of the play, giving the offense a numerical advantage.
Anthony Richardson's size and athleticism make this scheme particularly dangerous for the Colts. The Colts already showed in the preseason, on a play with Sam Ehlinger under center, that the quarterback can read run on the option but keep the football. This presses the advantage by turning the running back into a lead blocker.
3. Versatility of Formation
The Power Run Option doesn’t lock teams into a single formation or personnel grouping. Whether from the shotgun, pistol or even under center, teams can utilize the PRO, offering greater scheme versatility. This makes it harder for defenses to anticipate the play based purely on the offensive formation.
4. Complementary Passing Game
The threat of the PRO opens up the passing game. When defenses commit to stopping the run by bringing safeties closer to the line of scrimmage, it creates one-on-one matchups on the outside. Play-action passes and RPOs (Run-Pass Options) become even more effective because the defense is concerned about the run. This play interdependence makes it challenging for defenses to commit to stopping one aspect of the offense without leaving themselves vulnerable elsewhere.
5. O-Line Aggression
Traditional option plays sometimes require offensive linemen to be passive or zone block, allowing the defense to dictate the action. With the Power Run Option, offensive linemen can fire off the ball aggressively, similar to a traditional power run. This aggression can establish dominance at the line of scrimmage and create better lanes for running backs and quarterbacks.
This is particularly important in Indianapolis, where the offensive line uses a more aggressive technique. It should allow some of the team’s mauling offensive linemen to mask athletic deficiencies that have led to quarterback pressure over the last year.
Keep an eye on how Shane Steichen the the Colts' offense uses this versatile offensive concept to give Anthony Richardson an advantage as he acclimates himself to the speed of the NFL. It should reduce the pressure on him to be overly exotic with passing concepts, and it should allow him to dictate some of what he sees from opposing defenses.