By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Amid turnover at tight end and new additions at receiver, the Patriots continue to mix up their personnel packages on offense. Against the Browns, the most striking development was the increased use of four-receiver sets.
The Pats ran more 10 personnel (1 RB, 4 WR) than any other game this season except for Week 3 against the Jets. The difference is that in the previous game, they were pretty much forced into it because they only had one healthy tight end. On Sunday against the Browns, the Patriots had two tight ends in Ben Watson and Eric Tomlinson, and used them in a variety of ways.
Despite that, the Patriots gave a healthy look at packages featuring James White at running back and Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, Mohamed Sanu, and Jakobi Meyers at wide receiver. They used that package at their highest rate of the season so far. They ran that same exact group on 12 of 13 snaps in 10 personnel, the lone difference being Rex Burkhead at RB for one play. The Pats spread out the Browns defense a lot, presumably to help neutralize their pass rush and get their best weapons on the field.
Read below for a detailed breakdown of the snap counts, run/pass percentages, drive-by-drive usage, and season totals in the Patriots’ offensive personnel packages. Sunday’s game against the Browns reflected the team’s ability to further mix up their groupings since adding Watson and tight end and trading for Sanu.
Snap Counts (69)
10 personnel: 13 snaps (18.8 percent)
11 personnel: 24 snaps (34.8 percent)
12 personnel: 12 snaps (17.4 percent)
20 personnel: 6 snaps (8.7 percent)
21 personnel: 13 snaps (18.8 percent)
23 personnel: 1 snap (1.5 percent)
— The Patriots went back to their highly unusual 23 personnel set, which included linebacker Elandon Roberts lining up at fullback and guard Jermaine Eluemunor lining up at tight end. These plays alone illustrate the Patriots’ blocking issues up front this season, and why they could use another blocking TE and/or a real fullback before the trade deadline.
— New England used a fullback on 18 snaps, using a rotation of players. Watson played fullback on 10 snaps, Tomlinson on six, and Brandon Bolden & Elandon Roberts played one each. Twelve of the snaps with a fullback came in 21 personnel, five in 20 personnel, and one in 23 personnel.
— Watson and Tomlinson were both on the field for 26 snaps, 20 of them with both on the line. Josh McDaniels clearly wants to run the ball with both of them in the game. The problem is he might not quite have the talent up front to execute it consistently.
10 personnel: 84.6 percent pass (11/13)
11 personnel: 95.8 percent pass (23/24)
12 personnel: 91.7 percent run (11/12)
20 personnel: 66.7 percent pass (4/6)
21 personnel: 84.6 percent run (11/13)
23 personnel: 100 percent run (1/1)
— The Patriots almost entirely gave up on trying to run the ball in 11 personnel, opting to pass on 23 of 24 snaps. They’ve typically passed at closer to the 51-75 percent range. Unsurprisingly, they opted to run the ball more with two tight ends on the field, whether with both on the line or one used as a fullback.
— Two running plays in 20 personnel, both with Michel and with Tomlinson at FB. The Pats may have too many blocking problems to run much with three WRs, but another move at the deadline could help them do more of what it appears they want to do.
— Excluding 23 personnel, the Patriots used every grouping on two of 11 drives. Coincidentally, both ended in field goal attempts. The one that Mike Nugent made came after Tom Brady wisely threw the ball away when no one got open.
— The two touchdown drives were short on snap counts. That’s because the first one came off the Lawrence Guy interception that set them up at the Cleveland 11-yard line. The second happened mainly on the strength of a James White 59-yard catch-and-run.
— New England’s longest drive in terms of plays resulted in zero points. They ran 15 plays only for Nugent’s field goal attempt to be blocked.
Season Totals (585 Snaps)
10 personnel: 46 snaps (7.9 percent)
11 personnel: 268 snaps (45.8 percent)
12 personnel: 45 snaps (7.7 perent)
20 personnel: 58 snaps (9.9 percent)
21 personnel: 138 snaps (23.6 percent)
22 personnel: 22 snaps (3.8 percent)
23 personnel: 8 snaps (1.4 percent)
10 personnel: 93.5 percent pass (43/46)
11 personnel: 66.8 percent pass (179/268)
12 personnel: 75.6 percent run (34/45)
20 personnel: 86.2 percent pass (50/58)
21 personnel: 56.5 percent run (78/138)
22 personnel: 68.2 percent run (15/22)
23 personnel: 100 percent run (8/8)
— The Patriots’ most unpredictable personnel grouping continues to be 21 personnel, and that looks like how it’s going to shake out for the rest of the season. It could help the offense if Watson starts to get more looks in the passing game. He lined up at fullback on all six of his snaps in 21 personnel, which should eventually open something up for him as a pass-catcher if the Pats can identify the right matchups.
— Their overall use of 11 personnel has declined for two straight weeks after a spike in Week 6 against the Giants, when injuries forced them to run that grouping on almost every snap. They have good depth at WR compared to TE, so there’s a chance it climbs back up. There’s also a chance they simply run more 10 personnel like we saw on Sunday.
More Package Report notes coming next Monday after the Patriots play the Ravens on Sunday Night Football.
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.