We’re now getting into our tenth season of the 11 personnel period. In 2013, 11 personnel surpassed 50% of all offensive snaps for the primary time, persevering with a sample that had begun since we first began gathering personnel knowledge. We have seen 11 personnel utilization enhance in all however two years since 2010, and it has stayed comfortably over the 50% mark for almost a decade at this level. And the best adherents to the system have seen the best success. Last yr’s Super Bowl noticed Sean McVay’s Los Angeles Rams, which used probably the most 11 personnel within the league final season, defeat Zac Taylor’s Cincinnati Bengals, which used the second-most 11 personnel within the league. It was the crowning achievement for the league’s commonest personnel grouping.
Under the floor, one other change is going on. When I first began writing these yearly offensive personnel analyses after the 2016 season, it was the primary time that each different personnel grouping had dropped under 20%. It has stayed that approach ever since, till now. Two-tight finish units have seen a little bit of a resurgence over the previous few seasons and have as soon as once more handed that 20% barrier. Are groups across the league experimenting increasingly with changing these third receivers with second tight ends, or is one thing fishy occurring right here?
Before we go any additional, we should always make clear a number of issues. This is personnel knowledge, not formation knowledge. When Cordarrelle Patterson goes out extensive, he is nonetheless counted as a working again. When Deebo Samuel strains up within the backfield, he nonetheless counts as a large receiver. We’re utilizing the usual numerical system the place the primary digit is the variety of backs and the second digit is the variety of tight ends—11 personnel means one working again and one tight finish with three extensive receivers. We rely formations with six or extra offensive linemen individually somewhat than counting the offensive linemen as tight ends. A formation with two backs, one tight finish, one wideout and 6 offensive linemen is marked as “621” and never “22.”
Also, a shout out to our knowledge supplier Sports Info Solutions. They do all of the charting that makes this evaluation potential.
|NFL Offensive Personnel Groupings|
|Personnel||2020 Pct||2021 Pct||Difference||2021 DVOA|
There’s a bit of little bit of a development towards extra beef in 2021, although it is unfold out amongst a number of formations and units. Last yr, 30.1% of offensive performs had both a number of tight ends or further offensive linemen, up from 28.6% in 2020. That’s not an enormous enhance, however it’s probably the most important motion we noticed in 2021.
Usage of 11 personnel has roughly plateaued; it has now been between 58% and 60% in 4 of the previous 5 seasons. The league as a complete appears comfy with how continuously it is trotting out slot receivers, and there aren’t many conditions the place you may comfortably enhance slot fee with out going loopy like McVay and simply utilizing three receivers on basically each snap.
Then once more, the NFL is a copycat league, and McVay simply received the Super Bowl through the use of three receivers on basically each snap. Five groups hit 70% 11 personnel utilization after rounding. Two of them simply performed within the Super Bowl, and a 3rd, the Buffalo Bills, is our preseason favourite to win the Super Bowl this yr. Never thoughts that the opposite two groups had been disappointments in Washington and Pittsburgh—when you have a quarterback with a dwell arm, 11 personnel might be the easiest way to maximise manufacturing. Perhaps final season’s outcomes can be a tipping level to see extra groups experiment with the higher limits of 11 personnel going ahead.
The general desk makes it seem like 2021 was one thing of a holding yr, with no important modifications across the league. That opinion rapidly goes away once you look on a group stage, nevertheless, so let’s get to that.
Something within the Water
In 2020, for the primary time in years, we noticed each group use 11 personnel as its most frequent personnel grouping. In 2021, we noticed one group boldly zig whereas the remainder of the league zagged. For the primary time since 2012, a group used a personnel group apart from 11 personnel greater than 50% of the time. The leaders of the 12 personnel revolution, boldly transferring us into a brand new, two-tight finish future had been the, er, Miami Dolphins.
|DVOA in 11 Personnel|
Yes, after I stated one thing was fishy with our 12 personnel numbers, that was a regrettable pun. The Dolphins ran 667 snaps in 12 personnel, greater than twice as many as second-place Green Bay (322). Remove the Dolphins from the equation, and 12 personnel would come out at 18.8% of the league’s performs; Miami raises the quantity by 1.3% by itself. Mike Gesicki can be a tight finish in identify solely, main his place with 86% of his targets coming lined up both within the slot or out extensive. Durham Smythe was the in-line blocking man, serving to out a porous offensive line. So what you are seeing there may be much less “brilliant two-tight end design” and extra “Will Fuller is hurt, and you think we’re going to trust Albert Wilson or Mack Hollins out there? Please.” The proven fact that Miami dropped almost 30% in its 11 personnel utilization is extra a results of Fuller’s damage than something intentional. With Mike McDaniel changing the two-headed monster of George Godsey and Eric Studesville calling performs and Tyreek Hill and Cedric Wilson coming in within the offseason, anticipate this to be a one-year blip.
Many of the massive modifications from 2020 could be attributed to particular modifications in these groups’ conditions. The Falcons noticed their 12-personnel utilization soar 9.8% as a result of it is good to get Kyle Pitts onto the sector as a lot as potential, particularly when your prime remaining extensive receiver is away from the group. The Jets imported the Shanahan system from San Francisco, however with out a Kyle Juszczyk, they elevated their two-tight finish units by 3.8% to compensate. On the opposite facet, the Titans went to extra three-wide units because of shedding Jonnu Smith, and the Vikings needed to make the identical adjustment with the lack of Irv Smith. You run with the gamers you might have, not the gamers you wish you had.
That brings us to Sean McVay and the Rams. In 2018, the Rams set the fashionable file through the use of 11 personnel 92.3% of the time, mainly solely dropping out of it throughout Todd Gurley’s damage on the again finish of the season. They have by no means been in a position to repeat that mark, dropping to 73.4% in 2019 and 65.3% in 2020 thanks partially to accidents and inconsistency on the working again place. Well, they had been again to enjoying McVay’s idealized model of soccer final season, climbing to 84.9%. That was probably the most 11 personnel in soccer, the most important soar in 11 personnel from 2020 and the most important hole between DVOA out and in of 11 personnel. This is how McVay desires to play soccer—the Rams had 4 video games the place they performed 11 personnel on actually each snap.
Most divergences from that recreation plan had been compelled by issues out of McVay’s management. The most snaps that they had in a recreation not in 11 personnel was towards the Seahawks in Week 15, with 31 out of 60 snaps being in different formations. That, in fact, was the sport delayed two days by COVID, with 29 gamers spending time on the reserve checklist and gamers reminiscent of Tyler Higbee and Rob Havenstein lacking the competition solely, forcing some reshuffling and emergency recreation administration choices primarily based on availability. McVay’s scheme is all about getting probably the most potential appears to be like and performs from the identical personnel somewhat than bringing in supreme gamers for given performs and tipping palms. Maybe that is the optimum option to play soccer within the 2020s; it might say one thing that the Rams and Bengals mixed for only one play final season with two working backs on the sector and simply 38 performs with greater than three receivers. Three extensive, one again and go.
It’s not a cheat code to success, thoughts you. The Bears and Panthers every used 11 personnel greater than 60% of the time however noticed their DVOA drop by over 20.0% when in 11 personnel in comparison with all the things else. Both groups had considerably extra success in 12 personnel, with the additional blocker giving their struggling quarterbacks extra time to work, and the added worth of their subpar third receivers not doing sufficient to offset that. You cannot dwell in 11 personnel on a regular basis if you do not have the receiving corps to make it work, or an offensive line that wants further assist, or a quarterback that crumbles underneath strain. You have to regulate your offense to the personnel you might have, which is why Matt Nagy is gone, as is Matt Rhule and … what, actually? Huh. OK, Carolina, you do you.
The group that ought to trigger probably the most preliminary confusion on the checklist is San Francisco. The 49ers are at all times close to the highest of the league in non-11 personnel, and so they continued their success final season—ninth in general DVOA outdoors of 11 and fifth in run DVOA particularly. But they jumped to second greatest within the league with three wideouts on the sector, with solely the Buccaneers extra environment friendly passing and the Eagles extra environment friendly working than the 49ers in three-wide units. Some of that’s the Deebo Samuel impact, as he is listed as a wideout even when he was within the backfield. But that is not all the things occurring right here. From Weeks 1 to 9, earlier than Samuel began lining up within the backfield, the 49ers had been nonetheless eleventh in DVOA out of 11 personnel, forward of groups reminiscent of Buffalo and Kansas City. Obviously, Samuel’s versatility took the 49ers’ offense to the subsequent stage, however that is additionally credit score to Jauan Jennings being arguably the very best third receiver the 49ers have had since Shanahan arrived. Considering we’re speaking a few participant with 28 profession receptions, that tells you one thing concerning the state of San Francisco’s third receiver place over the previous few years. With the Deebo battle nonetheless ongoing in San Francisco, will probably be fascinating to see how the offense continues to evolve from a personnel standpoint this season.
With 11 personnel being the predominant offensive formation, one of many extra fascinating methods to take a look at this knowledge is to see during which methods groups deviated from the usual. Did they bring about a second tight finish on the sector, both as an additional blocker or a glorified massive slot receiver? Did they fake it was 1963 and use a fullback? Did the go full Air Raid and put 4 or 5 receivers on the sector? The reply tells you one thing concerning the character of the group.
|Number of Plays in Different Personnel Groups|
Our database has McVay calling only one play with two working backs as a head coach of the Los Angeles Rams, in a Week 5 recreation towards the Seahawks in 2017. I consider it is a mistake, with tight finish/H-back Derek Carrier lining up as fullback within the I-formation. You cannot say that the person does not have a philosophy. The Rams solely used 106 distinctive frequent lineups on offense; second place was the Vikings with 242. The Rams’ commonest lineup (Darrell Henderson, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Van Jefferson, Tyler Higbee and the absolutely wholesome line) was used on 20.3% of their performs. No different group even topped 10% in any given lineup. Some of that’s good well being, however it’s astonishing simply how far above each different group the Rams had been.
The Ravens take the crown from the 49ers when it comes to most performs with a number of working backs, regardless that Kyle Juszczyk stays the most-used fullback in soccer. This is not all Deebo Samuel, Wideback, both—the Ravens held the lead even earlier than Samuel began making common appearances within the backfield in Week 10. Patrick Ricard joined Juszczyk as the one fullbacks within the league to look on greater than 40% of their group’s snaps. The 49ers did find yourself having extra performs with a number of gamers within the backfield as a result of Ricard lined up as a decent finish way over Jusczyzk did. Both groups really fall behind New England when it comes to gamers within the backfield, nevertheless. The Patriots had Jakob Johnson as an precise training fullback and really hardly ever had two working backs on the sector with out having each of them within the backfield; no working backs as receivers or further tight ends for New England final season. We thought that Johnson would shed a few of his function to the pair of free-agent tight ends the Patriots final offseason, however maybe their numerous extensive receiver issues made that much less interesting.
As beforehand talked about, the Dolphins lap the sector with 777 snaps with a number of tight ends, which is a loopy quantity—in 2020, the Browns led the league with 518. Miami joins Cleveland and Atlanta because the three groups with extra snaps with a number of tight ends than out of 11 personnel, which is sensible once you keep in mind that Gesicki and Pitts had been mainly extensive receivers final yr. The Browns had been extra of a standard two-tight finish group; whereas 53% of David Njoku’s targets got here with him extensive or within the slot, you had been more likely to see the Browns in a real two-tight finish set, with each Austin Hooper and both Njoku or Harrison Bryant really lined up tight. The Browns had been additionally the one group to make use of 13 personnel with any regularity, hitting 183 snaps with all three tight ends on the sector. Kevin Stefanski’s groups persistently seem close to the highest of the league in multi-tight finish units, and that should not change with Hooper gone and Bryant firmly established as TE2. We might even see a drop in three-tight finish units, nevertheless; the Browns ran 202 of these final yr. We’ll need to see if Miller Forristall turns into a reputation you may need to know.
The Cardinals led the league with 163 snaps of 4 or extra receivers, which is definitely down from their league-leading whole in 2020 regardless of the additional recreation. They are the one purpose 10 personnel hits our important desk; that they had 154 of the 559 snaps in it final season. Arizona had a 54.8% DVOA with at the very least 4 receivers on the sector; with out them, the league’s DVOA drops from 11.2% to 0.8%. Arizona was on tempo to hit almost 300 snaps after the primary two months of the season, however DeAndre Hopkins’ hamstring damage compelled some important alterations to Kliff Kingsbury’s technique. With Hopkins suspended for the primary six weeks of the season, I’d anticipate the Cardinals to forgo four-wide units till October on the earliest.
While 4 groups hit the 100-snap mark for further linemen, the Saints had been the one group to make use of it as a daily a part of their recreation plan. The Lions mainly used no massive units till December, when accidents and sickness on the tight finish place compelled them to get artistic. The Cowboys sometimes used Connor McGovern as a fullback for short-yardage conditions. The Patriots’ numbers are inflated by the climate recreation towards Buffalo the place they ran on 48 of 51 performs; as they weren’t passing anyway, they ran loads of six-linemen units. Very situational in all instances.
The Saints, then again, had at the very least 10 snaps with further linemen in 10 video games final season and by no means had fewer than 4, with numerous jumbo units. It wasn’t simply the Taysom Hill bundle, both. New Orleans used further linemen on 24% of Hill’s snaps at quarterback, however the Saints additionally used it on 15% of Jameis Winston’s snaps and 13% of Trevor Siemian’s snaps. Sean Payton simply actually, actually preferred utilizing a number of linemen! We’ll see how a lot that modifications now that he has entered retirement, although the purpose of maintaining Pete Carmichael as coordinator was to not repair what wasn’t broke.