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Tracking the Patriots offensive personnel packages through the first 3 weeks

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Despite my wife’s bewilderment, I’ve taken a dive into another in-depth Patriots project.

Houston Texans v New England Patriots

My decision to chart the Patriots’ offensive personnel groupings for every snap throughout the entire 2017 season came as no surprise to my wife. Nothing Patriots-related does anymore.

Her response was emblematic of numerous past occurrences where an even deeper level of my fandom became exposed — instances that include stumbling upon my Patriots Snuggie (a true “don’t knock it until you try it” product), and uncovering the in-depth Patriots salary cap spreadsheet on my laptop. Here’s how it came about last Sunday.

Wife: “Why are you bringing that pad of graph paper into the bar?”

Me: “Their guest WiFi sucks, so I can’t update my Google spreadsheet.”

Wife: “OK. never update the salary cap sheet during games. And I’ve never seen you use graph paper for it.”

Me: “Ok, so here’s the deal...”

She always has the same reaction to these experiences — the same systematic arrangement of facial expressions and physiological responses. It always starts with her default look — one of sheer perplexity. Behind it you can see her mind frantically scrambling to re-calibrate and comprehend the scale of her husband’s obsession in the wake of yet another recent discovery.

Next in the progression is a short, audible sigh paired with a 1,000-yard stare and a slow, side-to-side shaking of the head. It’s not one of disappointment or disapproval (I’m fairly certain). It’s a gesture of surrender to the notion that, as woman who is completely apathetic to sports, she’ll never fully understand the grip football can have on a person — something she’s perfectly fine with.

She then resets — clearing the canvas of her face with a roll of the eyes. She flashes a slightly-sarcastic smirk that quickly evolves into one of her patented megawatt smiles, simultaneously conveying messages of ‘My god, what have I gotten myself into?’ and ‘You are pretty damn lucky that I love you’.

Whew, don’t I know it.

Although it’s been a little while, I’m positive that my compulsion for creating new ways to understand how the New England Patriots operate fails to qualify as trait conducive to sustained success on the dating scene — at least outside of New England.

Over the seasons, there has been no one better at acquiring and developing a diverse blend of offensive personnel than Bill Belichick. Perhaps even more impressive is the multifaceted nature in which he and Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels put them to use. Their ability to utilize a rotation of unique personnel packages from drive to drive, and sometimes from play to play, to create mismatches and confuses defenses is memorizing. So I decided to track them.

As with any data collection project, sample size is critical. As the season progresses and more plays are charted, I’ll be sure to publish periodic updates. For now, it’s unrealistic to expect to be able to identify eye-catching trends after charting just three weeks of regular season data. However, there are certainly some notable items worthy of mention.

It should be noted that my numbers, while somewhat painstakingly compiled, are not official. My snap counts do not include plays nullified by penalty, and the personnel package terminology I utilize is the same you’ll see on Inside the Pylon’s glossary. It refers to the personnel’s typical positions, not the place on the field where the player happens to be lined up at the whistle (ex: James White being split out wide is still counted as a running back being on the field).

Totals Through Three Weeks

Snaps: 206 — First Half: 112 — Second Half: 94

Leading: 119 — First Half: 66 — Second Half: 53

Trailing: 54 — First Half: 13 — Second Half: 41

Total snaps on drives resulting in scores (TD/FG): 121 — First Half: 82 — Second Half: 39

Total snaps on drives resulting in punts: 70

Total snaps on drives resulting in turnovers: 15

Unofficial player Snap Totals

Running Backs:

White: 93 — 45.1%, Gillislee: 73 — 35.4%, Lewis 28 — 13.6%, Burkhead: 18 — 8.7%, Develin: 53 — 25.7%

Tight Ends:

Gronkowski: 174 — 84.5%, Allen: 84 — 40.8%, Hollister: 22 — 10.7%

Wide Receivers:

Cooks: 180 — 87.4%, Hogan: 185 — 89.8%, Amendola: 55 — 26.7%, Dorsett: 53 — 25.7%

Sixth OL:

Waddle: 7 — 3.4%, Fleming: 5 — 2.4%

Personnel Packages

Number of unique packages utilized: 11

Total snaps ran in all 1-RB packages: 149

Comprising over 72% of the team’s total offensive snaps so far in 2017, single back packages are the standard as passing attacks continue to evolve and the game transitions further and further from its I-formation roots. Of the five different 1-RB groupings the Patriots have used through the first three weeks, by far the most prevalent has been their 11-personnel package (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR).

Tom Brady and company have deployed this versatile package 103 times thus far. That’s 50% of all offensive snaps and nearly 70% of their 1-RB package plays. Furthermore, 61 of these 11-personnel plays came on drives resulting in a touchdown or field goal — half of the team’s scoring-drive plays thus far.

Player snaps in 11-personnel:

Running Backs:

  • James White - 79
  • Mike Gillislee - 16
  • Dion Lewis - 7
  • Rex Burkhead - 1

Tight Ends:

  • Rob Gronkowski - 85
  • Dwayne Allen - 18

Wide Receivers

  • Brandin Cooks - 103
  • Chris Hogan - 103
  • Danny Amendola - 53
  • Phillip Dorsett - 50

Given his traditionally increased snap count on is passing situations, it’s not surprising to see James White is the go-to man in this package. However, he’s particularly counted upon when the Patriots are tied or trailing. 54 such plays have been ran in 11-personnel and James White has been on the field for 46 of them. 63% of those 46 snaps have come on drives resulting in scores. In fact, on the final drive of the team’s victory in week three over the Texans, all eight plays were ran out of 11-personnel with White in the backfield and Rob Gronkowski pitching in along the line of scrimmage.

Total snaps ran in “power” packages: 69

The Patriots have used traditional “power” packages like 12-personnel (1 RB, 2 TE, 2 WR), 21-personnel (2 RB/FB, 1 TE, 2 WR), and 22-personnel (2 RB/FB, 2 TE, 1 WR) consistently over the past decade to exploit mismatches with versatile players like Rob Gronkowski, often trapping nickel and dime defenses on the field to be taken advantage of in the running game.

Player snaps in 12-personnel, 21-personnel, and 22-personnel:

Running Backs:

  • Mike Gillislee - 39
  • James Develin - 32
  • Rex Burkhead - 15
  • James White - 10
  • Dion Lewis - 7

Tight Ends:

  • Rob Gronkowski - 61
  • Dwayne Allen - 28
  • Jacob Hollister - 3

Wide Receivers

  • Brandin Cooks - 62
  • Chris Hogan - 62
  • Danny Amendola - 1

Total snaps ran in jumbo packages (3 TE and/or 2 TE and an extra OL): 31

Player snaps in “jumbo” personnel packages:

Running Backs:

  • Mike Gillislee - 18
  • Dion Lewis - 10
  • Rex Burkhead - 2
  • James White - 1
  • James Develin - 1

Tight Ends:

  • Rob Gronkowski - 28
  • Dwayne Allen - 29
  • Jacob Hollister - 19

Wide Receivers

  • Brandin Cooks - 12
  • Chris Hogan - 17

6th OL

  • LaAdrian Wddle - 7
  • Cam Fleming - 5

Follow Brian Phillips on Twitter - @BPhillips_PP