Vikings wary of falling into read-option 'trap'
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The NFL goes through fads, trends and strategies that coaches concoct or adopt from different levels of the game to gain an edge on the field.
Copycats ensue (see: the Wildcat) and in seemingly a blink, a quarter of the Minnesota Vikings regular season schedule includes teams that play this generation's new wave: the zone-read option offense.
Short of calling it another trend, defensive coordinator Alan Williams said he is skeptical the read-option is here to stay. Williams said he knows it's important for at least this season as his defense gets a crucial test against San Francisco 49ers' quarterback Colin Kaepernick on Sunday.
"It's a dry run for what the season is going to be like," Williams said. "I think that the option game is here for at least another year, and we have a lot of teams that we play that have it in some shape or fashion in their offense."
"It's the flavor of the month for the NFL so a lot of teams are going to it and [the 49ers] are a team that does it well."
A longtime fixture of college football, option offenses don't just take a versatile running back, like the Wildcat formation, but instead require a higher degree of specialization from a quarterback who needs to run like a running back.
The Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks have quarterbacks, young or old, that will test the Vikings' secondary to see if they can stay on assignment and not be tempted to chase a Cam Newton or a Michael Vick should they roll out.
"It's one you'll get a feel for after getting reps at it," cornerback Josh Robinson said. "You can't be looking out for other people's work."
In his second year, Robinson is starting alongside cornerback Chris Cook, but is also in his first year of playing inside at the slot corner when the defense switches to nickel.
The Vikings have instructed their cornerbacks to not freelance, but that doesn't mean Williams isn't scheming against the read-option when knowing he'll face it four times this season.
"It's good for us to test run, test some ideas out," Williams said. "Test some things out that we would like to do and see how they fare without it counting. It will be good for us."
Williams said in the big picture, the read-option plays aren't as numerous as many people like to believe, but that doesn't mean they aren't dangerous.
"You do not want to fall into the trap when you actually count the number of times that play comes up," Williams said. "It is not as much as you would like to think, but at the same token, if they run it four times, you do not want it to be four touchdowns or four big plays. You do have to pay attention to it."
"If you do not stop it, teams will run it again and again and again."