By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
N’Keal Harry didn’t make a massive impact in his NFL debut on Sunday against the Eagles. But the Patriots made interesting use of the rookie in his first career game, based on their personnel packages.
Sunday was a tale of two halves with the Patriots offense, which mixed in a healthy amount of heavier personnel packages in the first half before almost exclusively running “11” personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR) in the second. An injury to Phillip Dorsett and an apparent lower-body issue for Mohamed Sanu led to more snaps for Harry later in the game as a pass-catcher.
It was notable, though, that the Patriots turned to Harry as a run-blocking receiver on his first four snaps. Harry took the field as one of just two receivers on three of the first four run plays, with the fourth coming in “11”.
There’s more to glean from how the Patriots utilized Harry and the rest of their offensive personnel on Sunday at the Eagles, which we’ll break down in detail below.
Snap Counts (72 total)
— 11 personnel: 56 snaps (77.8 percent)
— 21 personnel: 8 snaps (11.1 percent)
— 22 personnel: 5 snaps (6.9 percent)
— 23 personnel: 3 snaps (4.2 percent)
— Harry played 32 snaps on offense, seven in the first half and 25 in the second half after injuries forced him into a bigger role.
— All five snaps in “22” personnel (2 RB, 2 TE, 1 WR) and all eight in “21” personnel (2 RB, 1 TE, 2 WR) came in the first half. In 35 first-half snaps, the snap count distribution in 11/21/22 personnel was 22, 5, and 8 snaps each.
— Late in the game needing to simply run the ball, bleed the clock and force the Eagles to use their timeouts, the Pats went to their heaviest package possible. This unfortunately required OL Jermaine Eluemunor to check in as an eligible TE. Eluemunor played five snaps total at TE.
— Elandon Roberts was a true two-way player for the Patriots. In addition to eight snaps on defense and eight on special teams, he played seven snaps as a fullback.
— 11 personnel: 73.2 percent pass (41/56 snaps)
— 21 personnel: 50 percent run/pass (4 snaps each)
— 22 personnel: 100 percent pass (5/5 snaps)
— 23 personnel: 100 percent run (3/3 snaps)
— Harry caught his first career pass as the lone receiver in “22” personnel. He lined up wide as the “X” receiver to Tom Brady’s left, while Sony Michel and Brandon Bolden lined up at running back with tight ends Ben Watson and Matt LaCosse flanking the offensive line.
— Sony Michel was the lead running back on all eight snaps in “21” personnel, which saw an even split between runs and passes. The Patriots utilized a fullback on five of those snaps. Michel was the ball-carrier or targeted player on six of them. They tried to become more unpredictable with Michel on the field and saw mixed results.
— The Patriots’ pass-run percentage in “11” personnel actually dropped from the last game against the Ravens, in which they passed 74.6 percent of the time.
— They mixed up the backs on their 15 runs out of “11”. James White got the most carries with six, followed by five for Rex Burkhead, three for Michel, and one for Sanu on an end-around.
— As you can see in the above chart, the Patriots totally abandoned their heavier packages in the second half until the very last drive, which called for obvious runs.
— Despite running entirely “11 personnel” on six consecutive drives in the second half, the Patriots used entirely the same player grouping on just two of them. That’s despite a lot of hurry-up offense, during which they often interchanged the running backs.
— The Patriots used “11”, “21”, and “22” personnel at least once on four of their five drives in the first half. It illuminates the stark contrast between their approach in the first and second halves.
Season Totals (724 snaps)
— 10 personnel: 46 snaps (6.4 percent)
— 11 personnel: 391 snaps (54.0 percent)
— 12 personnel: 45 snaps (6.2 percent)
— 20 personnel: 58 snaps (8.0 percent)
— 21 personnel: 146 snaps (20.2 percent)
— 22 personnel: 27 snaps (3.7 percent)
— 23 personnel: 11 snaps (1.5 percent)
— 10 personnel: 93.5 percent pass (43/46)
— 11 personnel: 69.0 percent pass (270/391)
— 12 personnel: 75.6 percent run (34/45)
— 20 personnel: 86.2 percent pass (50/58)
— 21 personnel: 56.2 percent run (82/146)
— 22 personnel: 55.6 percent run (15/27)
— 23 personnel: 100 percent run (11/11)
— The Patriots’ focus on “11” personnel continues to rise. It remains the dominant personnel grouping on third downs, and wide receiver remains the team’s deepest position in terms of pure talent. That’s especially true with Harry finally in the mix. The longer the season goes on, the more apparent it’s become that they will have their best guys on the field when running three or more receivers.
— After passing on five out of five plays in “22” personnel, the Patriots’ season percentage in that grouping plummeted from 68.2 percent runs to 55.6 percent. Sunday’s approach could simply be a response to the defensive personnel in front of them, as the Patriots ran a lot of shorter passing plays to combat the Eagles’ speed up front. Having two tight ends blocking up front helped buy Brady time to throw to his backs and receivers, and on one of them Watson slipped into the open field for a big 19-yard catch. It showed that Josh McDaniels still wants to throw out of two-tight end sets, despite the team’s diminished production at the position in the post-Gronkowski era.
— Using more two-tight end sets also meant less use of “10” personnel (1 RB, 0 TE, 4 WR). The Patriots definitely respected the Eagles’ ability to get to Brady with their defensive front, which would be significantly harder with just the five offensive linemen tasked with blocking.
Next Package Report comes next Monday after the Patriots play the Dallas Cowboys.
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.