By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Patriots had to shrink their offensive personnel packages against the New York Jets on Sunday. Some of the changes were out of necessity.
With fullback James Develin and tight end Matt LaCosse out, the Pats had to turn even more toward their passing game and their wide receivers – even as Julian Edelman exited with a reported rib injury and Josh Gordon missed the occasional snap with injuries of his own. But there’s still plenty to unpack in terms of how Josh McDaniels deployed the personnel available to him and how he called the plays.
So in a departure from Week 2 in Miami, when the Patriots used six different personnel groupings, on Sunday they used only four. As a quick reminder, here’s how to describe the personnel packages used on Sunday:
— 11 personnel: 1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR
— 10 personnel: 1 RB, 4 WR
— 21 personnel: 2 RB, 1 TE, 2 WR
— 20 personnel: 2 RB, 3 WR
Below is a complete breakdown of how often the Patriots used each of the above personnel packages, and how they used them throughout the game against the Jets. This data is based on 75 offensive snaps, not including the two kneeldowns at the end of the game.
— 11 personnel: 45 snaps (60 percent)
— 10 personnel: 13 snaps (17.33 percent)
— 21 personnel: 4 snaps (5.33 percent)
— 20 personnel: 13 snaps (17.33 percent)
— With only one healthy tight end (Ryan Izzo), the Patriots didn’t even have the option of running 12 or 22 personnel. But that didn’t stop them from running 11 personnel on the vast majority of the snaps.
— After Julian Edelman left the game, the Patriots continued to run three-WR sets with rookie Jakobi Meyers taking Edelman’s place. They used the grouping of Meyers, Gordon, and Phillip Dorsett on 29 of their final 36 snaps.
— Even with Edelman out of the game, the Patriots continued to run the occasional four-WR sets in 10 personnel. Rookie Gunner Olszewski became the fourth option in that case.
— Sony Michel was the lone running back in 11 personnel on 15 of 45 snaps in that grouping. Brandon Bolden got one snap, and Rex Burkhead took the rest.
— 11 personnel: 53.3 percent run (24/45)
— 10 personnel: 92.3 percent pass (12/13)
— 21 personnel: 100 percent pass (4/4)
— 20 personnel: 92.3 percent pass (12/13)
— They passed on seven out of 16 snaps with Sony Michel on the field (43.8 percent). However, Michel was targeted only once on those plays, his first target of 2019. The Patriots continue to be relatively predictable with Michel, because opposing defenses still know he’s likely only getting the ball as a runner.
— The Patriots attempted their first run out of 10 personnel on the season, an inside draw that Burkhead took for seven yards. Meyers and Olszewski were tasked with blocking CB Ryan Poole and LB Blake Cashman, respectively, up the middle. But they couldn’t seal them off, otherwise Burkhead could have ripped off a huge gain. Losing Edelman’s blocking may have hurt them on that play.
— Offensively, the Patriots have been even more predictable out of 20 personnel. Even without James White, they simply replaced him with Brandon Bolden in the “pony” formation and empty backfield sets and it was bombs away. Burkhead remains their best option in terms of unpredictability with their running backs.
— Despite the limited number of groupings, the Patriots used a single package exclusively on only one drive – the Stephen Gostkowski field goal drive where they only used 11 personnel. Burkhead was the RB on four out of five snaps, while Gordon played three and Olszewski played two. Meyers and Dorsett were the only two weapons who played all five.
— The Patriots ran three of their four snaps in 21 personnel on the opening drive, then abandoned it for the rest of the game except for one play. It’s unclear whether they felt the package wasn’t going to work or they wanted to show the Jets a certain look before doing something different.
— Putting backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham into the game essentially signaled that the game was well in hand for the Patriots, but they still threw it on all four of the rookie’s snaps. Perhaps they simply wanted him to get some real game experience as a passer. He completed two of his four attempts. On the other two, he took a seven-yard sack and sailed a throw over Bolden’s head into the hands of Jets safety Jamal Adams for a pick-six.
Snap Counts (217 total):
— 12 personnel: 2 snaps (0.9 percent)
— 11 personnel: 98 snaps (45.2 percent)
— 10 personnel: 20 snaps (9.2 percent)
— 22 personnel: 6 snaps (2.8 percent)
— 21 personnel: 55 snaps (25.3 percent)
— 20 personnel: 36 snaps (16.6 percent)
— 12 personnel: 100 percent run (2/2)
— 11 personnel: 55.7 percent pass (54/97)
— 10 personnel: 95 percent pass (19/20)
— 22 personnel: 83.33 percent run (5/6)
— 21 personnel: 60 percent run (33/55)
— 20 personnel: 83.33 percent pass (30/36)
— It would behoove the Pats to figure out a way to run more out of 20 personnel. If they’re showing the pony formation or sending two backs onto the field, the defense knows it can likely play the pass.
— McDaniels continues to mix up his play-calls in 11 personnel, but the near-complete lack of using Michel as a weapon in the passing game appears to be hurting his ability to keep defenses guessing. Michel looked to be gaining more of a role in that department over the summer and showed good pass protection on Sunday, but he still has yet to see an appreciable amount of looks as a receiver.
— As long as LaCosse remains out, the Patriots will have no choice but to run more three- and four-receiver packages. But if and when he’s back, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a return to more two-tight end sets. That’s especially true for when Ben Watson returns in Week 5.
— The promotion of rookie fullback Jakob Johnson suggested the Patriots would try to run the same plays that they would with Develin, but that wasn’t the case. Johnson got zero offensive snaps on Sunday, but did get six special teams snaps.
That’s it for Week 3. More package reporting coming next week after the Patriots face the Bills in Buffalo.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at email@example.com.