The Los Angeles Rams entered the 2022 season extremely thin at the tight end position. On the initial 53-man roster, they kept just two tight ends in Tyler Higbee and Brycen Hopkins. The lack of tight end numbers on the roster limited the Rams offense and what they were able to do from a personnel standpoint.
While the Rams could technically still run 12 personnel, that would have put all of their tight ends on the roster on the field at the same time. If one or both of those players got hurt, it would have put the Rams in a difficult position.
Instead of playing traditional 12 personnel, the Rams introduced a full-back package with Ben Skowronek who had a tight end background. In typical McVay fashion, they also utilized their wide receivers as blockers.
Come for the Cam Akers touchdown— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) September 25, 2022
Stay for WR Ben Skowronek playing Fullback and lead blocking against 6'4, 260 pound LB Zaven Collins for the score.pic.twitter.com/4hQ5lsEaZN
Having wide receivers that can block does allow the Rams to run more 11 personnel. However, running the offense primarily from the same personnel grouping also allowed them to get predictable and become stagnant.
The Rams have always been an 11 personnel heavy team under McVay. However, due to the personnel on the roster, it severely limited their ability to change up their offensive personnel during games.
In Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills, the Rams ran 11 personnel on 100 percent of their plays. Given that they kept seven wide receivers and two tight ends on the opening day roster, this wasn’t a huge surprise.
Despite blitzing on zero percent of their defensive plays, the Bills were still able to get to Matthew Stafford and disrupt the offense in large part because the Rams were forced to run smaller offensive packages.
With an offensive line that wasn’t as strong as the one the year before due to the losses of Andrew Whitworth and Austin Corbett, the Rams needed to be able to run heavier offensive packages, but simply were unable to.
It’s pretty clear that McVay didn’t want to be locked in a cage when it came to the offense in 2023. According to Sharp Football Analytics, 12 personnel was the most efficient personnel grouping to throw the ball out of last season. The Rams threw the ball out of 12 personnel just four percent of the time, ranking tied for 31st in the NFL with the Bills.
the most efficient personnel grouping to pass out of last year was 12 personnel— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) May 4, 2023
12 personnel usage rate on pass plays:
34% - BAL
29% - KC
27% - SEA
23% - ATL
22% - GB
21% - NO
20% - TEN, PIT, HOU
19% - ARI
17% - DEN
16% - NYG, CLE, JAX, NYJ
15% - DAL, LAC
14% - PHI, WAS, CAR…
With Higbee and Hopkins both on the final year of their contracts, the Rams have made it a point this offseason to get deeper at the tight end position. In the Jalen Ramsey trade, general manager Les Snead had the Miami Dolphins include tight end Hunter Long. That didn’t end the tight end acquisitions either. In the fifth-round of the NFL Draft, the Rams selected Clemson tight end Davis Allen.
After entering the 2022 season with just two tight ends on the roster, it would be surprising if the Rams didn’t keep four tight ends in 2023. The player to keep an eye on will be Allen, simply because of what he brings as a blocker.
Allen can be effective as a wide receiver. Clemson lined him out wide and in the slot, allowing him to attack the seam of the defense. Allen was also one of the best in contested catch situations.
Among tight ends with at least 50 percent of their teams snaps, Allen led the nation with a 91.7 contested catch percentage. The Clemson tight end came down with 11 out of 12 contested catch opportunities. Additionally, his 91.7 percent success rate in contested catch situations was the best among tight ends with at least 10 opportunities since PFF started tracking in 2017. That bodes well in the red zone where the Rams have a tendency to lean on the fade to the back corner.
Allen will need to develop as a receiver in terms of his route-running. However, where he could immediately make an impact is in-line as a Y-tight end and as a blocker. The Clemson tight end was arguably one of the better blocking tight ends to enter the draft. That’s not common for a tight end built like a wide receiver at 6’6.
Ben Skowronek fullback packages in the Rams offense were fun and all...but really looking forward to hopefully more 12 personnel with rookie Davis Allen.— Blaine Grisak (@bgrisakTST) May 5, 2023
Watch him push the pile and lead the way on this touchdown. pic.twitter.com/Cs8xxcTVjr
Last season, he had the 14th highest run-blocking grade according to PFF among tight ends with at least 350 snaps as in-line tight end. Blocking will immediately be a strength of Allen’s as he develops as a receiver.
This was something that Allen showed off in Mobile at the Senior Bowl during the pre-draft process. During one of the practices, Allen sealed off Northwestern's Adetomiwa Adebawore to help open up a hole for his running back.
Clemson TE #84 Davis Allen posted Top-5 TE marks in VJ (38.5) & BJ (10-5) at Combine but reps like this @seniorbowl 9-on-7 drill are what get attention of NFL TE coaches.— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) March 7, 2023
One thing we learned over years in draft rooms is it’s hard to sell TE who can’t block.
Underrated player. pic.twitter.com/jnNzGKs5BI
This is something that the Rams have lacked in the offense ever since they opted not to bring back Johnny Mundt. They attempted to turn Hopkins into a blocking tight end, but that hasn’t worked out. Allen comes into the NFL with blocking as a strength.
Last season, the Rams ranked in the bottom-half of the NFL in touchdown rate in goal-to-go situations.
The fifth-round rookie will give the Rams something that they haven’t had at tight end in the past two seasons. Yes, he gives them numbers at the position. However, Allen is more than just a number. It will be interesting to see the impact that he has as a rookie. At the very least, Allen will give the Rams blocking option with receiving upside at the tight end position moving forward. This will hopefully allow McVay to get more versatile in his formations and run more 12 personnel.