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Offensive personnel evaluation: Rams and Bengals go to 11

We’re now coming 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 information. Now we have seen 11 personnel utilization improve in all however two years since 2010, and it has stayed comfortably over the 50% mark for practically a decade at this level. And the best adherents to the system have seen the best success. Final 12 months’s Tremendous Bowl noticed Sean McVay’s Los Angeles Rams, which used essentially 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.

Beneath the floor, one other change is going on. After 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 means 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 happening right here?

Earlier than we go any additional, we must always make clear just a few issues. That is personnel information, not formation information. When Cordarrelle Patterson goes out broad, he is nonetheless counted as a working again. When Deebo Samuel traces 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 broad receivers. We depend formations with six or extra offensive linemen individually relatively 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.”

Additionally, a shout out to our information supplier Sports activities Information Options. They do all of the charting that makes this evaluation potential.

General Numbers

NFL Offensive Personnel Groupings
Personnel 2020 Pct 2021 Pct Distinction 2021 DVOA
11 59.3% 59.2% -0.1% 7.7%
12 19.1% 20.1% +1.0% -2.0%
21 7.3% 6.9% -0.4% 0.9%
13 3.4% 3.3% -0.1% 2.0%
22 2.9% 2.3% -0.6% 0.4%
6+ OL 2.6% 3.9% +1.3% 0.9%
10 2.1% 1.6% -0.5% 17.8%
Misc 3.3% 2.6% -0.7% -6.1%

There’s somewhat little bit of a pattern towards extra beef in 2021, although it is unfold out amongst a number of formations and units. Final 12 months, 30.1% of offensive performs had both a number of tight ends or additional offensive linemen, up from 28.6% in 2020. That is not an enormous improve, but it surely’s essentially the most important motion we noticed in 2021.

Utilization 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 steadily it is trotting out slot receivers, and there aren’t many conditions the place you may comfortably improve slot charge 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 Tremendous Bowl through the use of three receivers on basically each snap. 5 groups hit 70% 11 personnel utilization after rounding. Two of them simply performed within the Tremendous Bowl, and a 3rd, the Buffalo Payments, is our preseason favourite to win the Tremendous Bowl this 12 months. By no means thoughts that the opposite two groups have been disappointments in Washington and Pittsburgh—when you have a quarterback with a dwell arm, 11 personnel might be one of the simplest ways to maximise manufacturing. Maybe final season’s outcomes shall be a tipping level to see extra groups experiment with the higher limits of 11 personnel going ahead.

The general desk makes it appear to be 2021 was one thing of a holding 12 months, with no important modifications across the league. That opinion rapidly goes away if you look on a crew degree, nonetheless, so let’s get to that.

One thing within the Water

In 2020, for the primary time in years, we noticed each crew use 11 personnel as its most frequent personnel grouping. In 2021, we noticed one crew boldly zig whereas the remainder of the league zagged. For the primary time since 2012, a crew used a personnel group aside from 11 personnel greater than 50% of the time. The leaders of the 12 personnel revolution, boldly shifting us into a brand new, two-tight finish future have been the, er, Miami Dolphins.

DVOA in 11 Personnel
Workforce 11
Pct
Rk Change
from 2020
Rk 11
DVOA
Rk Non-11
DVOA
Rk Diff Rk
LAR 84.9% 1 +19.6% 1 21.8% 8 -31.5% 31 +53.3% 1
CIN 77.7% 2 +1.8% 15 16.8% 11 -32.5% 32 +49.3% 2
WAS 74.6% 3 +7.7% 9 -1.5% 21 -2.4% 20 +0.9% 21
PIT 74.1% 4 -0.3% 18 -9.4% 27 3.9% 13 -13.2% 29
BUF 69.6% 5 -3.3% 20 21.3% 9 -2.1% 19 +23.4% 6
JAX 68.1% 6 -4.2% 21 -7.6% 26 -14.2% 27 +6.6% 17
TB 67.6% 7 +10.0% 6 42.9% 1 6.5% 11 +36.4% 3
KC 67.0% 8 -6.0% 23 22.7% 6 21.4% 1 +1.3% 20
CAR 65.8% 9 +9.6% 7 -26.3% 32 -5.6% 23 -20.6% 31
SEA 65.0% 10 -0.0% 17 21.9% 7 7.2% 10 +14.6% 8
PHI 63.7% 11 +5.7% 11 11.1% 14 14.6% 4 -3.6% 26
DAL 63.6% 12 -8.3% 28 19.8% 10 13.4% 5 +6.4% 18
IND 63.4% 13 -6.1% 24 7.2% 17 9.8% 6 -2.6% 23
CHI 63.4% 14 +7.8% 8 -17.4% 29 4.0% 12 -21.3% 32
LV 61.6% 15 +11.5% 5 4.2% 18 -4.0% 22 +8.3% 15
LAC 61.4% 16 -8.5% 29 27.6% 5 8.4% 8 +19.1% 7
DEN 61.3% 17 -6.1% 25 14.3% 12 3.3% 14 +11.0% 12
GB 60.6% 18 +5.9% 10 28.0% 4 15.6% 3 +12.4% 9
NYJ 59.8% 19 -12.3% 30 -6.5% 24 -3.5% 21 -3.0% 25
HOU 59.5% 20 -3.0% 19 -14.2% 28 -25.7% 30 +11.6% 10
DET 58.3% 21 -8.0% 27 -7.5% 25 -18.1% 28 +10.6% 13
NYG 57.9% 22 +2.9% 13 -26.0% 31 -20.4% 29 -5.6% 27
TEN 57.3% 23 +17.3% 2 -1.7% 22 1.1% 17 -2.9% 24
ARI 55.9% 24 +11.6% 4 2.3% 19 16.0% 2 -13.7% 30
NE 54.4% 25 +0.8% 16 29.8% 3 -0.2% 18 +30.1% 4
SF 47.8% 26 +3.0% 12 35.5% 2 7.6% 9 +27.9% 5
CLE 43.6% 27 +2.9% 14 9.4% 16 8.7% 7 +0.7% 22
NO 43.0% 28 -7.1% 26 1.3% 20 -9.7% 26 +11.0% 11
MIN 42.5% 29 +15.0% 3 9.7% 15 2.8% 15 +6.9% 16
BAL 42.4% 30 -5.9% 22 12.5% 13 2.7% 16 +9.7% 14
ATL 32.2% 31 -28.2% 32 -20.2% 30 -8.8% 25 -11.4% 28
MIA 26.8% 32 -28.2% 31 -4.3% 23 -6.5% 24 +2.2% 19

Sure, once 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 Inexperienced Bay (322). Take away 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 title solely, main his place with 86% of his targets coming lined up both within the slot or out broad. Durham Smythe was the in-line blocking man, serving to out a porous offensive line. So what you are seeing there’s much less “good two-tight finish design” and extra “Will Fuller is damage, and also you suppose we’ll belief Albert Wilson or Mack Hollins on the market? Please.” The truth that Miami dropped practically 30% in its 11 personnel utilization is extra a results of Fuller’s harm 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, count on this to be a one-year blip.

Most of the massive modifications from 2020 might be attributed to particular modifications in these groups’ conditions. The Falcons noticed their 12-personnel utilization leap 9.8% as a result of it is good to get Kyle Pitts onto the sphere as a lot as potential, particularly when your high remaining broad receiver is away from the crew. The Jets imported the Shanahan system from San Francisco, however with no 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 dropping Jonnu Smith, and the Vikings needed to make the identical adjustment with the lack of Irv Smith. You run with the gamers you could have, not the gamers you want you had.

That brings us to Sean McVay and the Rams. In 2018, the Rams set the fashionable report through the use of 11 personnel 92.3% of the time, mainly solely dropping out of it throughout Todd Gurley’s harm on the again finish of the season. They’ve by no means been in a position to repeat that mark, dropping to 73.4% in 2019 and 65.3% in 2020 thanks partly to accidents and inconsistency on the working again place. Properly, they have been again to taking part in McVay’s idealized model of soccer final season, climbing to 84.9%. That was essentially the most 11 personnel in soccer, the largest leap in 11 personnel from 2020 and the largest hole between DVOA out and in of 11 personnel. That 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 sport plan have been compelled by issues out of McVay’s management. Essentially the most snaps they’d in a sport 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 listing and gamers akin to Tyler Higbee and Rob Havenstein lacking the competition totally, forcing some reshuffling and emergency sport administration selections based mostly on availability. McVay’s scheme is all about getting essentially the most potential appears and performs from the identical personnel relatively than bringing in very best gamers for given performs and tipping fingers. Possibly that is the optimum technique 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 sphere and simply 38 performs with greater than three receivers. Three broad, one again and go.

It isn’t 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 every little thing else. Each 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’ll be able to’t 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 additional assist, or a quarterback that crumbles below stress. It’s a must to regulate your offense to the personnel you could have, which is why Matt Nagy is gone, as is Matt Rhule and … what, actually? Huh. OK, Carolina, you do you.

The crew that ought to trigger essentially the most preliminary confusion on the listing is San Francisco. The 49ers are all the time 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. However they jumped to second greatest within the league with three wideouts on the sphere, with solely the Buccaneers extra environment friendly passing and the Eagles extra environment friendly working than the 49ers in three-wide units. A few of that’s the Deebo Samuel impact, as he is listed as a wideout even when he was within the backfield. However that is not every little thing happening right here. From Weeks 1 to 9, earlier than Samuel began lining up within the backfield, the 49ers have been nonetheless eleventh in DVOA out of 11 personnel, forward of groups akin to Buffalo and Kansas Metropolis. Clearly, Samuel’s versatility took the 49ers’ offense to the following degree, however that is additionally credit score to Jauan Jennings being arguably the perfect third receiver the 49ers have had since Shanahan arrived. Contemplating we’re speaking a few participant with 28 profession receptions, that tells you one thing in regards to the state of San Francisco’s third receiver place over the previous few years. With the Deebo battle nonetheless ongoing in San Francisco, it will likely be attention-grabbing to see how the offense continues to evolve from a personnel standpoint this season.

Veering Away

With 11 personnel being the predominant offensive formation, one of many extra attention-grabbing methods to have a look at this information is to see through which methods groups deviated from the usual. Did they bring about a second tight finish on the sphere, both as an additional blocker or a glorified massive slot receiver? Did they faux it was 1963 and use a fullback? Did the go full Air Raid and put 4 or 5 receivers on the sphere? The reply tells you one thing in regards to the character of the crew.

Variety of Performs in Totally different Personnel Teams
Workforce 11 2+RB 2+TE 4+WR 6+OL
ARI 624 55 282 163 17
ATL 324 378 451 1 12
BAL 498 516 297 30 32
BUF 784 125 88 98 70
CAR 722 159 268 4 3
CHI 680 26 336 7 44
CIN 810 1 217 14 73
CLE 457 167 458 2 22
DAL 729 36 321 14 100
DEN 636 64 376 0 4
DET 614 175 202 49 114
GB 644 29 333 57 0
HOU 603 51 348 3 27
IND 667 76 296 10 32
JAX 697 6 271 52 9
KC 749 72 306 0 18
LAC 689 53 349 3 61
LAR 887 0 120 24 36
LV 665 170 304 2 12
MIA 292 23 777 4 12
MIN 456 351 241 89 66
NE 569 303 192 5 100
NO 446 172 280 89 185
NYG 608 79 358 9 70
NYJ 620 86 224 93 33
PHI 680 16 367 3 7
PIT 819 67 240 5 2
SEA 620 22 320 1 0
SF 495 443 166 1 2
TB 764 3 273 30 85
TEN 645 141 351 5 50
WAS 796 45 216 6 23

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 sport towards the Seahawks in 2017. I consider it is a mistake, with tight finish/H-back Derek Service lining up as fullback within the I-formation. You’ll be able to’t say that the person would not have a philosophy. The Rams solely used 106 distinctive widespread 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 totally wholesome line) was used on 20.3% of their performs. No different crew even topped 10% in any given lineup. A few of that’s good well being, but it surely’s astonishing simply how far above each different crew the Rams have been.

The Ravens take the crown from the 49ers when it comes to most performs with a number of working backs, despite the fact 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 seem on greater than 40% of their crew’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 excess of Jusczyzk did. Each groups really fall behind New England when it comes to gamers within the backfield, nonetheless. The Patriots had Jakob Johnson as an precise working towards fullback and really not often had two working backs on the sphere with out having each of them within the backfield; no working backs as receivers or additional tight ends for New England final season. We thought that Johnson would shed a few of his position to the pair of free-agent tight ends the Patriots final offseason, however maybe their varied broad receiver issues made that much less interesting.

As beforehand talked about, the Dolphins lap the sphere 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 smart if you keep in mind that Gesicki and Pitts have been mainly broad receivers final 12 months. The Browns have been extra of a standard two-tight finish crew; whereas 53% of David Njoku’s targets got here with him broad or within the slot, you have 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 have been additionally the one crew to make use of 13 personnel with any regularity, hitting 183 snaps with all three tight ends on the sphere. Kevin Stefanski’s groups constantly 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 may even see a drop in three-tight finish units, nonetheless; the Browns ran 202 of these final 12 months. We’ll should see if Miller Forristall turns into a reputation you may should know.

The Cardinals led the league with 163 snaps of 4 or extra receivers, which is definitely down from their league-leading complete in 2020 regardless of the additional sport. They’re the one motive 10 personnel hits our predominant desk; they’d 154 of the 559 snaps in it final season. Arizona had a 54.8% DVOA with no less than 4 receivers on the sphere; with out them, the league’s DVOA drops from 11.2% to 0.8%. Arizona was on tempo to hit practically 300 snaps after the primary two months of the season, however DeAndre Hopkins’ hamstring harm compelled some important alterations to Kliff Kingsbury’s technique. With Hopkins suspended for the primary six weeks of the season, I might count on the Cardinals to forgo four-wide units till October on the earliest.

Whereas 4 groups hit the 100-snap mark for additional linemen, the Saints have been the one crew to make use of it as a daily a part of their sport plan. The Lions mainly used no massive units till December, when accidents and sickness on the tight finish place compelled them to get inventive. The Cowboys sometimes used Connor McGovern as a fullback for short-yardage conditions. The Patriots’ numbers are inflated by the climate sport 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, alternatively, had no less than 10 snaps with additional linemen in 10 video games final season and by no means had fewer than 4, with a number of jumbo units. It wasn’t simply the Taysom Hill bundle, both. New Orleans used additional 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 retaining Pete Carmichael as coordinator was to not repair what wasn’t broke.

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