One of the things I rush to look at from Week 1 is personnel grouping usage. It tells us so much about a play caller’s philosophy.
Bookmark the Personnel Grouping Page at Sharp Football Stats to find all the data and toy around with the filtering options.
I’ll first note that my preseason article forecast these groupings to a “T”. Tracking preseason personnel groupings is a highly accurate observation which translates with high correlation to forecasting in-season coaching decisions.
But let’s collect quick takeaways:
- The Cardinals introduced the Air Raid and went 4-wide on 67% of their offensive plays. They went 76% pass from 10 personnel, and these passes only averaged 38% success with 6.5 YPA. However, they were extremely strong when rushing from 10: 54% success and 5.2 YPC. Trailing large in the fourth quarter, the Cardinals used 10 personnel on 22 of 25 snaps, and passes from 10 averaged a 59% success rate and 8.8 YPA.
- The Bills went from 21 personnel (two backs) on 40% of their offensive snaps. These passes were short, but successful, averaging only 5.7 YPA but posting a 65% success rate. And they ran for a 60% success rate and 5.4 YPC from 21.
- Baltimore predictably used a lot of 12 and 21 personnel and dominated the lowly Dolphins from both.
- Two teams went wild with 20 personnel. While the rest of the NFL used 2 backs and 3 wide receivers on just five plays total, the Bears and Patriots used 20 personnel on 21 snaps each.
- The Patriots were not successful from 20, passing 71% of the time for just 4.2 YPA and a 40% success rate. And when they ran from that grouping, they produced just 3.2 YPC and a 50% success rate.
- The Bears similarly were very unsuccessful from 20. They passed 95% of the time, and passes gained just 2.7 YPA with a 35% success rate and 1 sack taken.
- The Chiefs killed the Jaguars from 21 personnel. They posted an 88% success rate on runs for 5.0 YPC, and on passes, averaged 28.5 YPA with a 100% success rate.
- The three heaviest 12 personnel teams: the Titans, the Eagles, and the Packers
- After using 11 personnel on 77% of plays in 2018, the Packers new-look offense used 11 personnel on just 49% of plays, including just 36% of early down plays. Matt LaFleur opted to use 12 personnel 42% of the time. While the overall success rate was low (37%) it was still superior to 11 personnel (29%). Passes from 12 gained 11.4 YPA, while passes from 11 gained only 3.2 YPA and Aaron Rodgers was sacked on 4 of 20 drop backs from 11.
- In my preseason article, I warned that the Lions were looking like they might use even more heavy personnel in 2019, and that’s exactly what they did. The Lions used just 41% 11 personnel on early downs (59% in 2018) and instead opted for large amounts of 12 (20%), 21 (16%) and 22 (13%) personnel. The Lions were terrible when running from heavier groupings, gaining just 2.8 YPC with a 42% success rate. But when Matthew Stafford passed (14 att), he recorded 14.9 YPA and a 86% success rate. Unfortunately, the Lions went 63% run from these heavier groupings.
- Another prediction was the Bucs would use much less 11 personnel, and they did. Tampa Bay only used 51% 11 personnel, opting instead to go with 12 personnel on 32% of plays.
- Just like I noted in the preseason, the Browns went 11 personnel heavy. Cleveland used 11 personnel on an incredible 94% of snaps. I don’t advise they continue that much longer. All four of Baker Mayfield’s sacks came from 11 personnel and he recorded just 7.4 YPA and a 38% success rate from 11. When Freddie Kitchens took over in 2018, he shifted quickly to a heavier use of 12 and 13 personnel. Under Kitchens in 2018, Baker dominated from 12 personnel (67% success, 9.6 YPA) and 13 personnel (67% success, 13.5 YPA) and was less efficient from 11 (46% success, 8.6 YPA). On Sunday, Mayfield threw just one time from 12 or 13, a successful 8-yard gain.
- As I forecast, Dallas would jack up their usage of 11 personnel, as we witnessed in the preseason. They used 11 on 73% of snaps, a huge increase over 2018 (66%). In 11 personnel, Dak Prescott was 20/24, 13.6 YPA, 4 TDs, and a perfect 158.3 rating.
- The Vikings didn’t pass the ball, so they rarely used 11 personnel (just 21% of the time). Instead, they opted for heavy use of 12 and 21 personnel, with some 22 and 13 added for good measure. Once again, this shouldn’t surprise. In the preseason, the Vikings used only 18% 11 personnel on early downs, a huge drop from 63% usage in 2018.
- Once again, as forecast, the Jets were going to jack up their 11 personnel usage, and they did just that. Using it only 53% of early downs in 2018, they used it on 80% of preseason snaps. And in Week 1, that number was 82%.