Recently, Acme Packing Company’s Paul Noonan made what I thought was a fairly compelling case for the Packers running less 11 personnel. In short, as common as that personnel grouping may be, it’s also somewhat less efficient than other, heavier packages.
To be sure, there’s probably some noise in the stats surrounding personnel usage. 11 personnel is popular for good reason: it’s a versatile package that gets a good mix of athleticism and size on the field, and its flexibility allows offenses to attack defenses in numerous ways.
But I think it’s important to note that using bigger personnel packages doesn’t necessarily mean the Packers will be less versatile. In fact, 12 personnel is in many ways just as versatile as 11 personnel, and if the Packers get creative with their tight ends, they might be able to create some really interesting matchups.
Just look at the diversity in skill sets the Packers can put on the field by pairing their four tight ends in different ways.
Need a run-heavy look? Marcedes Lewis can line up as an in-line tight end with de facto number one tight end Jace Sternberger lining up wherever you need him most, whether that be as a traditional tight end, a big slot, or a fullback.
Want two wild cards on the field? Pair Sternberger with 2020 third-round pick Josiah Deguara. Their overlapping athletic profiles mean the Packers can throw just about whatever they want at opposing defenses with these two on the field together.
For pure athleticism, how about a pairing of Sternberger and Robert Tonyan? It’s true that neither has really harnessed their athletic gifts fully just yet, but both have promising traits that allow them to line up all over the formation.
And this is just 12 personnel. The Packers’ options multiply in groupings that include multiple backs, like 22 or 32 personnel. In fact, we’ve already seen a little bit of what’s possible with three backs and multiple tight ends on the field: the play we chose as the Packers’ best moment from 2019 came from 32 personnel.
It’s certainly true that the Packers don’t necessarily have the greatest tight end group in the world. But deployed creatively, as I’ve ever-so-briefly laid out above, the Packers can use what they have to create some interesting matchups.
Of course, that depends on Matt LaFleur appropriately and judiciously maximizing the gifts of each of his players. He’s shown some ability to do that with the Packers running backs. Now it’s crucial for him to do the same at tight end.