2021 Offensive Personnel Evaluation: Rams and Bengals Go to 11

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NFL Offseason – 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 accumulating personnel information. We’ve got seen 11 personnel utilization improve 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. Final yr’s Tremendous Bowl noticed Sean McVay’s Los Angeles Rams, who used probably the most 11 personnel within the league final season, defeat Zac Taylor’s Cincinnati Bengals, who used the second-most 11 personnel within the league. It was the crowning achievement for the league’s most typical personnel grouping.

However below the floor, one other change is going on. Once 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 beneath 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 an increasing number of with changing these third receivers with second tight ends? Or is one thing fishy occurring right here?

Earlier than we go any additional, we must always make clear a couple of issues. That is personnel information, not formation information. When Cordarrelle Patterson goes out huge, he is nonetheless counted as a operating 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 operating again and one tight finish with three huge receivers. We depend formations with six or extra offensive linemen individually fairly 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 Info Solutions. They do all of the charting that makes this evaluation potential.

Total 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 a bit little bit of a pattern in the direction of extra beef in 2021, although it is unfold out amongst a number of formations and units. Final yr, 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, however it’s probably the most important motion we noticed in 2021.

Utilization of 11 personnel has kind of plateaued; it has now been between 58% and 60% in 4 of the previous 5 seasons. The league as a complete appears snug with how steadily they’re trotting out slot receivers, and there aren’t many conditions the place you possibly can comfortably improve slot price 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, are our preseason favorites to win the Tremendous Bowl this yr. By no means thoughts that the opposite two groups have been disappointments in Washington and Pittsburgh—in case you have a quarterback with a stay arm, 11 personnel could be one of the simplest ways to maximise their manufacturing. Maybe final season’s outcomes shall be a tipping level to see extra groups experiment with the higher limits of 11 personnel going forwards.

The general desk makes it appear like 2021 was one thing of a holding yr, with no important modifications across the league. That opinion shortly goes away while you look on a workforce degree, nonetheless, so let’s get to that.

One thing within the Water

In 2020, for the primary time in years, we noticed each workforce use 11 personnel as its most frequent personnel grouping. However in 2021, we noticed one workforce boldly zig whereas the remainder of the league zagged. For the primary time since 2012, a workforce 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.

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 themselves. Mike Gesicki is mostly a tight finish in title solely, main his place with 86% of his targets coming lined up both within the slot or out huge. 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 “good two-tight finish design” and extra “Will Fuller is harm, and also you assume we’ll belief Albert Wilson or Mack Hollins on the market? Please.” The truth that Miami dropped almost 30% of their 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.

Most of the huge modifications from 2020 may 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 sphere as a lot as potential, particularly when your high remaining huge receiver is away from the workforce. 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 aspect, the Titans went to extra three-wide units on account 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 might have, not the gamers you want you had.

And that brings us to Sean McVay and the Rams. In 2018, the Rams set the trendy document 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’ve 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 operating again place. Properly, they have 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. 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 recreation plan have been pressured by issues out of McVay’s management. Probably the most snaps that they had in a recreation not in 11 personnel was in opposition to 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 resembling Tyler Higbee and Rob Havenstein lacking the competition fully, forcing some reshuffling and emergency recreation administration selections 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 fairly than bringing in ideally suited gamers for given performs and tipping arms. Possibly that is the optimum method to play soccer within the 2020s; it could say one thing that the Rams and Bengals mixed for only one play final season with two operating backs on the sphere, and simply 38 performs with greater than three receivers. Three huge, one again, and go.

It is 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 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 stay 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. You need 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 workforce that ought to trigger probably the most preliminary confusion on the listing is San Francisco. The 49ers are at all times close to the highest of the league in non-11 personnel they usually continued their success their final season—ninth in total 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 operating 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 occurring 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 resembling Buffalo and Kansas Metropolis. Clearly, Samuel’s versatility took the 49ers’ offense to the subsequent degree, however that is additionally credit score to Jauan Jennings being arguably the very best third receiver the 49ers have had since Shanahan arrived. Contemplating we’re speaking a couple of 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 fascinating to see how the 49ers offense continues to evolve from a personnel standpoint this season.

Veering Away

With 11 personnel being the predominant offensive formation, one of many extra fascinating methods to have a look at this information is to see wherein methods groups deviated from the usual. Did they create a second tight finish on the sphere, both as an additional blocker or a glorified huge 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 sphere? The reply tells you one thing in regards to the character of the workforce.

Our database has McVay calling only one play with two operating backs as a head coach of the Los Angeles Rams, in a Week 5 recreation in opposition to the Seahawks in 2017. I consider it is a mistake, with tight finish/H-back Derek Provider lining up as fullback within the I-formation. You’ll be able to’t 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’ most typical 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 workforce even topped 10% in any given lineup. A few of that’s good well being, however it’s astonishing simply how far above each different workforce the Rams have been.

The Ravens take the crown from the 49ers by way of most performs with a number of operating 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 look on greater than 40% of their workforce’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. Each groups really fall behind New England by way of gamers within the backfield, nonetheless. The Patriots had Jakob Johnson as an precise working towards fullback, and really not often had two operating backs on the sphere with out having each of them within the backfield; no operating 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 huge 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 sensible while you keep in mind that Gesicki and Pitts have been mainly huge receivers final yr. The Browns have been extra of a standard two-tight finish workforce; whereas 53% of David Njoku’s targets got here with him huge 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 workforce 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 might even see a drop in three-tight finish units, nonetheless; the Browns ran 202 of these final yr. We’ll need to see if Miller Forristall turns into a reputation you will 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’re the one purpose 10 personnel hits our fundamental 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 sphere; 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 pressured some important alterations to Kliff Kingsbury’s technique. With Hopkins suspended for the primary six weeks of the season, I would anticipate 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 workforce to make use of it as an everyday a part of their recreation plan. The Lions mainly used no huge units till December, when accidents and sickness on the tight finish place pressured them to get inventive. The Cowboys often used Connor McGovern as a fullback for short-yardage conditions. The Patriots’ numbers are inflated by the climate recreation in opposition to 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, however, had at the very least 10 snaps with additional linemen in 10 video games final season, and by no means had fewer than 4, with a lot of jumbo units. It wasn’t simply the Taysom Hill package deal, both. New Orleans used additional linemen on 24% of Hill’s snaps at quarterback, however in addition they used it on 15% of Jameis Winston’s snaps and 13% of Trevor Siemian’s snaps. Sean Payton simply actually, actually favored 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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