Chicago Bears Football Concepts

A Charles Miner “rundown” on personnel groups. Also, a Bears Saints preview

Trying to count the five skill position players out on the field on Sunday and where they are aligned before the ball snaps is akin to a boomer trying to type into their phone with their index finger while squinting. Unfortunately, I can no longer watch a game like a normal human. Before the snap, I look at where the tight ends are for offense, where the defensive line is aligned, and expand out from there. When the ball is snapped, I try to watch route combinations. I can’t enjoy a positive play anymore because of basically this: “Wait!, rewind it, what the hell did they do there?”. If you are slightly astute, you’ll notice that Matt Nagy puts out numerous combinations of formations and personnel packages, hopefully in his mind to get the right matchup. (Hell, watch a Chiefs, I feel like you don’t see the same play or formation twice.)

Regardless, this observation wouldn’t be such an issue with the fact that the Bears offense has about as much rhythm as I do on the dance floor. Zero. None. Bears fans near and far, including the ones ready to burn down Twitter Monday night noticed too. One solution presented, could be to lessen the substitutions, and keep the same guys out for at least an entire drive or more than one to two plays. Again, most teams sub a decent amount, and have plenty of formations, but some of those teams are top ten offenses, and this Bears sure as hell is not.

The Chess Match Begins

Personnel groupings are part of the chess match with the defensive coordinator, while formations are more window dressing for the actual play you want to run. If I see two tight ends as a DC, I want to get some bigger bodies in the game. If I see four receivers, I want my nickel or dime players. Personnel groupings are more effective if those TE’s can run block and catch a ball and get open, also if those four receivers can hold up their blocks. You want it to be a hybrid.

Based on what the Bears want to present, sometimes this leads to less snaps for Anthony Miller, or like the whole season as more fans have noticed less snaps for Cole Kmet. Hell, you may have even noticed how they pulled both Kmet and Graham near the goal line on the play Foles threw that brutal interception on. Having a 6’6” guy might have helped. Logically it’s what the other team may have expected, so Nagy had to throw a big curveball! (audible eye roll). Plays like that standout, and it helps bring personnel packages teams play to light.

Counting to Three

So how does this work? The first two numbers in the formation mean RB’s, then TE’s. Highlighted are the most commonly used ones. Ex: So 11 personnel, it means 1 RB 1 TE and 3 Receivers.

21)  I feel every team you saw in the 90s grew up with this one, with backs in the I formation with an attached tight end.

13) This is the go to standard formation now. Since the fullback is dead, teams use this majority of the time.

12) This is also common, used only almost 25% of plays across the NFL.

23) You might see this at the goal line a lot, with all the TE’s bunched together trying to move the defenses big personnel too. OR maybe, one of those blocking TE’s slips out for a TD. No one suspects the crappy blocking Tight End!

Again these don’t account for where on the field these players are. There could be an empty backfield, and the running back is out as a receiver. You could have three tight ends, and they could be bunched in a cluster near the line. Who knows. It’s football. Have fun.

60% of the time in the NFL,1 TE and 3 WR’s are on the Field

This is the fancy picture with the colored helmets in a spreadsheet form. The far left column shows 11 personnel is by FAR the most frequently used, nearly 2/3 of the time. The second most left at about 1/5 of the time is 2 TE’s and 2 WR’s. Even though there are a ton of cells filled, the majority of those are filled in with 1% or 5% usage. These could be for particularly game scenarios, like down at the goal line, where you need bigger people, etc

More Blue and Teal Colors!

This is just a zoom in of the far left columns. Dark blue equals high usage like 60 or 70% and up, lighter color is less usage of that grouping.

**Again it just shows what POSITIONS are on the field, not WHO the receivers are, and or WHERE they are….

-13 personnel (3 WR’s and TE) is the go to all day for ‘Dem Boys, Jets, Bengals, and the Football team of Washington.  Also, actual good teams like the Rams, Chiefs, and Bills go to town with that personnel too, so glean what you want from it.

-You can see some good offensive teams rolling out two TE’s more often, with 12 personnel (2 TE’s two WR’s) like LA, KC, TAMPA, TEN, ARI, SEA. My more tight end’s the merrier holds up!  
-Some teams pop out for a higher affinity for certain groupings other teams don’t use very often, and that’s their cup of tea. For example, the Niners, Pats, and Packers love them some old school 21 personnel (two backs one TE), but the rest of the league sort of dabbles in it.

How do the Bears fare with these groupings?

Below shows the Bears with 3 Receivers, which you can tell everyone uses more than half the time. The mean or basic play success rate is about 50%, so 45% is a little below average, but not brutal.

Half of their plays have been run out of this, on more of the low end in the league. It looks like the Bears have a fantastic 5.7 yards per carry on 78 tries. The old number to shoot for was 4.0 and above. Why might this work? Sometimes teams like to spread you out, and then run it. Trouble is, they only do it 25% of the time when they have three receivers.
Now only 25% of their TOTAL plays have been out of this 2 TE and 2 WR, but there are some positive signs. Look at that passer rating! Anything above 80-90 is good, above 90 you are pushing Pro Bowl. Hell, look at that play success rate, 76%, when the league average is 50. Just to fool that defense, they may try to bring on some big tight ends and then end up passing.

Let’s wrap it up

Both the Bears and Saints will be moving their chess pieces all over the place on Sunday. As much as it is a thesis that Matt Nagy seemingly subs guys EVERY play, try and pay attention to the Saints too. When Alvin Kamara is out there, who is out there with him, big guys or little guys? IS Taysom Hill a damn RB or a WR? (Where do they stick him for that matter?) Do they have in big tight ends and pass it? How often are they spread out with 3 or even 4 receivers? (4% of the time, apparently!). Hopefully the Bears took their ass kicking in L.A. and grew from it. The gauntlet continues.