The risk of just hitting the QB on the read-option

Jonathan Ferrey

A look at if targeting the QB on the read-option is a good strategy.

One theory for stopping the read-option that we've heard ad nauseam this offseason is that defenses should just hit the QB on every read-option play – regardless of whether he has the ball or not. The idea behind this is that QBs are too valuable to their team and therefore their head coach will want to do everything possible to mitigate the risk of injury for that player. If a QB is getting killed for carrying out fakes then head coaches will no longer call those types of plays. This strategy may work against more risk averse coaches but this strategy also creates huge risks for the defense as well.

For example, in on particular down in the 2nd quarter for Seattle this past week, the Seahawks ran a read-option on 2nd and 7 from the 49ers’ 26 yard line. When Ahmad Brooks recognizes that he is the unblocked man, he decides that he is going to take a shot at Wilson no matter what. The play results in Wilson taking as hard of a hit as I have ever seen him take, but, with Brooks committing to hitting Wilson, he opened up a huge running lane for Marshawn Lynch which resulted in a 14 yard gain.

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This is the risk that defenses face when employing the strategy of attacking the QB. The Seahawks went from 2nd and 7 on their opponent's 26 to 1st and 10 from their opponent's 12. This was a huge gain for the offense in a close game and a gain I bet Wilson would be willing to take a hit for.

This is no different than a QB staying in the pocket against blitzing linebackers to deliver an accurate pass down field. 'Staring down the gun barrel," as you'll hear John Schneider say. Quarterbacks know that they are going to smashed but they know that a 1st down completion will feel way better than how horrible a huge hit is going to feel. Though Brooks delivered the big hit on Wilson, the Seahawks' offense delivered an even bigger hit to the 49ers defense with a 14 yard gain.

Ultimately, teams may decide to implement this strategy against the Seahawks all season. The only problem is that they leave themselves susceptible to huge gains. These are gains that I bet Wilson is willing to sacrifice his body for. However, that said, it is yet to be determined if the coaching staff is willing to sacrifice Wilson's body for those gains. Naturally, 'sacrificing' Wilson's body it a relative thing. Are these hits the same type of hits every pocket quarterback takes? Can you keep Wilson from ever getting hit either way?

In this one, the Hawks certainly did not shy away from running the read-option after the hit, but they may become more risk adverse as the season goes on. Mitigating the risk of injury to their franchise quarterback is something that all coaches consider, however, coaches also recognize that to win football gains - they are going to have to take risks.

Passing plays down the field, naked bootlegs, screens and QB sneaks are all examples of plays that increase the risk of a QB taking a hit. However, they also increase the chances of the offense getting a big play or converting a 1st down so that is why coaches call these plays, despite the fact that they do put the QB in the line of fire. So teams can try to attack Wilson on the read option but in doing so - they become extremely susceptible to huge gains and getting huge gains is exactly what the Seahawks' coaching staff wants.

Big up to Danny for the GIFs!

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