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Can the 49ers run the 'read option' with Kaepernick?

Using video to break down the QB in the Pistol offense. Matt Bowen

Print This May 23, 2011, 12:00 PM EST

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Can you run the read option out of the Pistol alignment in the NFL? Sure, because when we break it down this is no different than running the read option out of the Spread alignment—something we have seen from Michael Vick and the Eagles.

And in San Francisco (where Alex Smith is the expected No.1 for Jim Harbaugh), the Niners can create packages that are designed to get QB Colin Kaepernick on the field in a situation where he can produce. Highlight and use the athletic ability of the rookie QB in crucial game situations (think Red Zone, 3rd downs, etc.) to test the defense. Let’s take a look at this clip from the Nevada offense vs. BYU and then get into some coaching points that can apply to the San Fran playbook this season.

Coaching points:

1. The “read” option: Similar to the “veer” option we saw back in the day in college football (think Oklahoma out of the wishbone and Nebraska out of “I” backs) and the Spread offenses we now see on Saturdays. The QB will ride the running back through the mesh point and “read” the DE in a 4-3 alignment or the rush backer in a 3-4 alignment. If the DE/ OLB closes to the dive back, the QB will keep the ball and just the opposite if the contain stays up field. The only thing missing from the “read” option is the pitch-man, but that is where personnel comes into play.

2. Personnel: I see a scheme that can be run from a variety of personnel groupings on Sundays. Bring Ace  (2 WR, 2 TE, 1 RB) on the field, Posse (3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB), Pro (2 WR, 1 TE, 2 RB) and even Jet (4 WR, 1 RB).  You can run option football in mutliple alignments. Force the defense to play with their sub packages and even expand on the play calling. Run basic route concepts out of the Pistol (Slant-Flat, Flat-7, 4 Verticals, etc). All designed to use the read option as a starting point in terms of where you want to take this aspect of your offense. Get creative and expand your play calling.

3. Get it on tape: I would install the Pistol and get it on tape early—hopefully in the preseason. With any creative offensive package you install, you are showing the defense a different look. And what that new alignment does is force opposing coordinators to spend practice and meeting time focused on one player—Kaepernick. No different than what we saw from Denver last season with Tim Tebow. Call it “situational football,” but it still sells when you see the results on Sundays. And from my own experience in the NFL, it is tough to install a new defense to stop a series of exotic plays in one week.

4. Part of the playbook: This is not a scheme that you install in your first 15 plays on the script come game day. Run the west coast system in San Fran. That has to be your offense. However, from my perspective, I am thinking 5-8 plays a game that are designed around Kaepernick. Run the read option, use play action and even get into the 3-step route tree. We can call it an "exotic" formation, but when you take a step back, this is just option football--run at all levels of the game. And with the rookie QB, the Niners have a unique talent that can contribute early in his career by getting creative with the playbook.

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