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Football 101 | Daily Brew

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Since we've hit The Desert with no on field action taking place, I figured this might be a good time to dive into some Football 101. I've thought about how often I hear players, coaches and GMs talk about offensive personnel groupings.

"Well, we want to be a 13 personnel team."

"The Colts were in 22 personnel on that play."

Here's one that we hear a lot around the NFL.

"This is an 11 or 12 personnel league, now." because it's a passing league, right?

Okay, what does that actually mean? I know I'm guilty of using personnel nomenclature often, but I try to explain each time what it means.

It's as simple as this, really. 11 offensive players on the field, but with five OL and one QB, the defense is more concerned with the five eligible receivers on any particular play. As offenses became more complicated, and complex, over the years, defenses needed to come up with a shorthand, easy way of communicating what offensive personnel were on the field. Defenses have been doing that communication since the beginning of football, but as the game evolved, so did the need to communicate easier and quicker.

The first digit is the number of running backs on the field. When the Texans put Dameon Pierce OR Devin Singletary on the field with no FB or other RB, that's going to be a 10, 11, 12, 13 personnel designation - first digit is a one indicating just one RB on the field.

The second digit is the number of tight ends on the field. Now, with tight ends, it can be kind of sticky, in some sense, because a defense may not treat all tight ends the same. For example, when facing the Kansas City Chiefs, some defenses may look at Travis Kelce as a WR, instead of a TE. As such, a coaching staff decides early in game week preparation how it will classify each player and then label those personnel groups accordingly. But, keeping it clean and easy…

One tight end on the field - it's 11 or 21, perhaps even 31 personnel.

Two tight ends on the field - it's 12 or 22 personnel

Three tight ends…and that offensive coordinator is a HERO…using 13 or 23 personnel

So, let's test our knowledge thus far so we can speak like the pros do.

The Texans have the following on the field…

What personnel grouping would that be? Okay, so there's one RB (Pierce) and one TE (Schultz).

That would be 11 personnel (one RB - Pierce, one TE - Schultz).

Now, again with tight ends, it's a bit tricky. As with Kelce, noted above, some defenses may treat Schultz like a WR, so THEY may treat it as 10 personnel. But, sticking to standard convention for now, that's 11 personnel as Schultz is a tight end.

Okay, so then the Texans put the following on the field…

RB - Dameon Pierce

WR - Robert Woods

WR - Tank Dell

WR - Nico Collins

What personnel grouping is that?

Well, that's two RBs and no TEs, so it's 20 personnel. Now, most teams will call that 20 Rabbit or 20 Pony or some version of 20 "fast guys" personnel because the two backs are both true tailbacks. If fullback Troy Hairston were on the field with Pierce OR Singletary, it's still 20 personnel, but the look is different because Troy's a true fullback. So, teams designate within personnel groups as well. THAT will be for our advanced class later on.

Coming from San Francisco, OC Bobby Slowik isn't scared to use his tight ends, so the Texans put the following on the field…

RB - Mike Boone

TE - Dalton Schultz

WR - Nico Collins

What personnel grouping is that? One RB, three TE's

That's 13 personnel.

Nice. You're getting the hang of it. Now, keep an ear/eye out once we get to training camp for "personnel groupings" and then you'll know EXACTLY what's happening.