Over at Pro Football Focus, they published an article yesterday regarding the increase in utilization of “11” personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR’s) across the league over the course of the last decade. In 2008 this personnel grouping was used on only 34% of plays. That figure has steadily climbed to 58% in 2017, topping out at 59% the year prior.
Back in 2016, when 11 personnel was being used more than any other grouping in the NFL, the Los Angeles Rams (who ran 11 personnel on 65% of offensive plays) would’ve fielded Case Keenum (and eventually Jared Goff) and five offensive lineman; with the remaining five being comprised of Todd Gurley, Lance Kendricks, Kenny Britt, Tavon Austin, and Brian Quick. PFF wrote an article about that bunch too. If you click on this link, and scroll aaaaaaaall the way down to the bottom, you can read their thoughts on the matter. Fun times!
But I digress. Fast forward to 2018, and the Rams - and their position players - are in a much better spot. And no team in the NFL is working in 11 personnel like the Rams — who field the 1RB - 1 TE - 3WR combination more than any team in the league.
11 Personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WRs – NFL average: 58%)
1. Los Angeles Rams – 80%
Not only did head coach Sean McVay change the culture in Rams country, he also greatly changed their offensive dynamics. While still above league average in 2016 (65 percent 11 personnel vs. 59 percent NFL average), the additions of Robert Woods (83.2 grade), Sammy Watkins (76.2) and rookie Cooper Kupp (81.2) in addition to Todd Gurley (No. 1 RB – 92.0 grade) led the Rams to use 11 personnel on a league-leading 80 percent of plays. Given the presence of Gurley, among other factors, the Rams were also less likely to throw the ball compared to the rest of the league out of their 1-RB sets:
11 personnel – 63 percent of plays were passes compared to 72 percent NFL average
12 personnel (12% of plays) – 37 percent pass compared to 52 percent NFL average
There are only three other teams in the league that even eclipse 70%. The Raiders are in 11 personnel on 71% of their offensive plays, and the Dolphins and Lions both utilize those groupings 74% of the time. The Ravens use it less than any team in the league (39%).
Another thing to note is that while PFF made no mention of it, Tyler Higbee was on the field a lot in 2017 — accounting for 70.5% of offensive snaps. Second year TE Gerald Everett, who will look to cut into that figure as he acclimates into the pros, saw 28.8% of the snaps.
At the bottom of the PFF article, they display a handy chart that shows each NFL team’s top three personnel groupings from last season. For the Rams, it was 11 on 80% of their plays, 12 personnel (1 RB, 2 TE’s, 2 WR’s) on 12% of their plays, and some mixture of other player combos (not listed) comprising the remaining 8%. The San Francisco 49ers ran the highest percentage of plays in 21 personnel (2RB’s, 1 TE, 2 WR’s), at 31% last season. The Rams and Redskins are the only two teams not log a single snap with that grouping.
Expect to see more of the same from the Rams in 2018, but substituting Brandin Cooks for Sammy Watkins. With a full year in McVay’s offense under their belt, the offensive side for the reigning NFC West Champions should be operating on all cylinders in the upcoming year.