Philadelphia Eagles News

InFocus: Analysis Of Personnel Groups

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There are many advantages to working with the unique data available at Pro Football Focus, but the main one is probably the access to snap counts.

In the past, we really only had your standard old boxscores as a resource for guessing how often players were getting on the field. Pass attempts, rushes and receptions were all that was available and only told part of the story. These days, we can dig deeper and look at overall snaps, pass routes and even blocking assignments.

I'm going to take a look at the offensive and defensive personnel packages used most often by the Eagles during the last few seasons. In some cases, I'll apply those packages to the 2012 depth chart to see what kind of changes we could see this season.

Note that the packages shown indicate the personnel, not necessarily the formation. For example, if LeSean McCoy lined up in the slot, he'd still be listed as a running back for the purpose of this study.

Snap data provided by ProFootballFocus.com

OFFENSE

3 WR, 1 HB, 0 FB, 1 TE
Year Percent Of Snaps
2008 34%
2009 36%
2010 41%
2011 44%


If you watch the Eagles on a regular basis, you could probably guess their most popular offensive personnel package. Sporting one of the league's pass-heaviest offenses during the Andy Reid era, the team's preferred package includes three wide receivers, one tailback and a tight end. Consider that the Eagles used three-plus wide receivers 59 percent of the time in 2011, which was the league's third-highest mark. In fact, they rolled with four or more wide receivers nine percent of the time, which was the league's sixth-highest mark.

The 3-1-0-1 has been the offense's most popular package in each of the last four seasons. The most it was used during that span was in 2011, when it was called for 44 percent of the team's snaps.

Going forward, don't expect much to change. Slot man Jason Avant worked 686 snaps last season and will be heavily-involved again in 2012. LeSean McCoy will be in the backfield, Brent Celek will have his hand in the dirt, and the DeSean Jackson/Jeremy Maclin will work on the outside.

2 WR, 1 HB, 0 FB, 2 TE
Year Percent Of Snaps
2008 14%
2009 9%
2010 12%
2011 26%


Although they do run quite a bit out of the 3-1-0-1, the Eagles turned to a two-tight end package in running situations quite a bit last year. Consider that a run was called 165 times with the 2-1-0-2 package in place, which compares to 164 snaps with the 3-1-0-1 on the field.

Overall, we see a noticeable increase in the usage of the second tight end last season, as compared to the previous three years. In fact, the usage of the second tight end was double what we saw in 2010! The Eagles had two or more tight ends on the field 31 percent of the time last season, which was the league's 17th-highest mark.

The reason for the shift to more two-tight end sets in 2011 was the progression of No. 2 tight end Clay Harbor, who, as we'll see later, was the preferred choice to bringing a fullback onto the field. Harbor, who ended up handling 350 snaps last season (56 percent of which were run plays), figures to again check in for Avant quite often in rushing situations this season.

2 WR, 1 HB, 1 FB, 1 TE
Year Percent Of Snaps
2008 21%
2009 21%
2010 22%
2011 10%


You can't have the ying without the yang.

With more two-tight end packages in play last season, another position needed to suffer. After utilizing the 2-1-1-1 set just over 21 percent of the time each of the previous three seasons, the package was in play just 10 percent of the time in 2011.

The Eagles went with a fullback on just 14 percent of their snaps, which is the sixth-lowest mark in the league. Owen Schmitt, now with the Raiders, played 163 snaps, 57 percent of which were actually pass plays. Note that the Eagles were more likely to pass the ball when a fullback was on the field (57 percent), than they were when a second tight end was out there (44 percent).

In 2012, Stanley Havili takes over as the squad's primary fullback. Don't expect a major bounce back for the position unless either Celek or Harbor suffers a long-term injury.

Other noteworthy 2011 packages: 4-1-0-0 (6%), 4-0-0-1 (3%), 1-1-1-2 (2%), 3-0-0-2 (2%), 3-1-1-0 (2%) and 3-2-0-0 (2%)

DEFENSE

First of all, let's make one thing clear - the popular front-seven (4-3/3-4) packages aren't necessarily base defenses any more. Consider that in 2008, a base defense was used on 54 percent of all snaps across the league. In 2011, that figure was 45 percent. The nickel jumped from 31 percent to 40 percent and six-plus defensive back usage is up from 11 percent to 13 percent. I think it's safe to say that defensive coordinators are aware of the recent spike in the usage and effectiveness of the forward pass.

4 DL, 2 LB, 5 DB
Year Percent Of Snaps
2008 38%
2009 38%
2010 42%
2011 46%


As we'll see here in our first defensive chart, the Eagles are, in fact, one of those teams that do not use the conventional base defense as their primary defensive package. The popular 4-2-5 nickel package was used in nearly half of the team's snaps in 2011. Notice that this is up from 42 percent in 2010 and 38 percent in each of the previous two seasons. This follows the league trend relatively well.

Splitting this up a bit more, we see the 4-2-5 in place on 56 percent of the passes the team faced in 2011. That figure drops to 32 percent when the opposing team called a run play.

The Eagles went with five-or-more defensive backs 57 percent of the time last season, which ranked as the 10th-highest mark in the league.

4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB
Year Percent Of Snaps
2008 47%
2009 50%
2010 48%
2011 41%


The Eagles' base 4-3 package was in play 41 percent of the time last season. That 41 percent makes for a massive drop-off from the previous three seasons. Considering the struggles of the team's young group of linebackers last season, it's no surprise that the team, instead, turned to the slot corner (usually Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) more often. With Asante Samuel gone and the linebacker unit much improved, don't be surprised if we see this mark jump back up closer to 50 percent in 2012.

The 4-3-4 package was on the field only 28 percent of the time when the opponent threw the ball. That's compared to 60 percent when the call was a run.

4 DL, 1 LB, 6 DB
Year Percent Of Snaps
2008 11%
2009 7%
2010 4%
2011 10%


Finally, we have the dime package. Philadelphia rolled with the 4-1-6 on one-tenth of their defensive plays last season, which is higher than both 2009 and 2010, but actually less than the amount of times it was used in 2008. The 2-3-6 is actually the more popular dime package across the league, but the Eagles clearly played to their strengths there, which was the defensive line. They did not use the 2-3-6 on a single snap last season.

The 4-1-6 was in play 15 percent of the time when the opponent called a pass, compared to just three percent when they faced a run.

For perspective, the 10-percent dime rate the Eagles went with in 2011 ranked as the league's 14th-highest mark.

Other noteworthy 2011 packages: 6-4-1 (1%), 4-4-3 (1%), 5-1-5 (1%)

Looking back at all of the team's defensive packages, it's interesting to examine how well the defense slowed the opposing offense in each situation.

Opposing offenses completed 58 percent of their aimed throws ("aimed" simply refers to pass attempts minus batted balls, spikes, throwaways and hits) and averaged 7.5 yards per aimed throw against the 4-3-4. When an extra corner was added (4-2-5), the opposing offense enjoyed a 65-percent completion percentage and the same 7.5 YPA mark. It is interesting that the Eagles defense was actually better against the pass (at least in these key categories) with a third linebacker than they were with a fifth defensive back.

Against the run, the 4-3-4 was the most effective, allowing just 3.8 yards per carry. The 4-2-5 surrendered 5.5 yards per carry on 131 attempts.

Football is the most complicated sport on the planet, but new statistical categories – like the ones provided by Pro Football Focus – give us an understanding of the game we've never had before. Check out InFocus throughout the season and you'll find the most comprehensive Eagles analysis on the web.

Mike Clay, @MikeClayNFL on Twitter, is the Director and Managing Editor at Pro Football Focus Fantasy. He also works as an NFL Writer for NBC's Rotoworld.com.

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