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Eric Weddle: Run-Pass Option in the NFL Will Die Within Five Years

It seems every summer there's a new American craze. Remember fidget spinners last year!?

This year, at least in the NFL, it's the run-pass option (RPO).

The Philadelphia Eagles rode it to a Super Bowl victory last season. The Ravens, who finished with the sixth-fewest RPOs last season, will incorporate many more in their offense this year.

But don't count Ravens safety Eric Weddle, the man who rocks an old-school long beard, as a believer.

"I think in five years, it's going to be out," Weddle said after Monday's joint practice with the visiting Los Angeles Rams, who also use a lot of RPOs. "I think it's just another phase."

For those who don't know exactly what an RPO is, it gives the quarterback the option of handing off the football, running with it himself or throwing it based on what he reads from the defense before the snap and as the play unfolds.

Quarterback Joe Flacco is much more in the traditional pocket-passer mold, and he's not a fan of gimmicky offensive plays, but he's on board with RPOs.

"I think that's honestly all good stuff," Flacco said a couple weeks ago. "It puts stress on defense. I think it opens up lanes for the running backs, so I think those are definitely good things when you pick to do them in the right spots."

Head Coach John Harbaugh and Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg are on board too.

Part of the reason the Ravens drafted rookie Lamar Jackson in the first round was because his mobility opens up more options for the offense. He's the perfect kind of quarterback for RPOs because he's so dynamic with the ball in his hands as a runner or thrower.

"It's definitely growing," Harbaugh said of RPOs. "It's probably because it's good football."

Harbaugh said the roots of the RPO are nothing new, however. He said it can be traced back to the triple option, which his father, Jack Harbaugh, used for years at Western Kentucky, including in their FCS National Championship in 2002.

"The same principles are in play," Harbaugh said. "The pitch phase, now, is usually the pass part of it, so it's even more creative.

"These are high school plays that went into college and now in the NFL. I don't think you'll see a team come out here and be completely an RPO-type team, because in this league, you can pretty much shut down anything that's just one thing. But it's going to be a big part of people's offenses for sure."

It seems odd that an offensive scheme could go from high school to the NFL instead of the other way around, but spread offenses featuring more wide receivers and hurry-up tempo that try to jam as many offensive plays into a game also became popular in college before the pros.

Harbaugh and the Ravens are always trying to stay on top of the newest, best ideas, and spend a lot of time talking to college coaches to pick their brains.

Weddle isn't worried about it all. He's entering his 12th NFL season and has seen a lot over the years.

"Honestly, I think the hardest teams to defend are the teams that run the ball in play action and take shots. If you can't stop the run, it's going to be a long day on defense," Weddle said.

"It'll be just another phase, in my opinion, where defenses see it and get used to it. It's just a revolving door. It's just like the Wildcat, and the quarterback run game, yada, yada, yada."

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