The Rams are known for Sean McVay’s high-powered offense which has given opposing defenses headaches for the better part of the season. The Rams “base” formation is 11 personnel. This means that the team has three wide receivers on the field along with a running back and tight end. Many teams around the NFL like to bring in an extra blocker and go to 12 personnel on running downs.
Typically, this means that teams are bringing their slot receiver off the field and replacing him with a tight end. When the Rams elect to do this Gerald Everett usually takes the place of Cooper Kupp and lines up as a tight end opposite Tyler Higbee. This look gives the Rams an extra offensive lineman and no definitive strong side, which keeps the defense honest. However, the Rams don’t typically find success when they go to 12 personnel in likely running downs.
On the other hand, when remaining in 11 personnel they often find more success, whether they elect to run or pass. This is in large part thanks to the blocking ability of the Rams receivers. Sammy Watkins has put those talents on display many times this season, staying after blocks far downfield and fighting to establish a running lane for his backs. The 11 personnel keeps the defense honest, spreading them out and often taking a linebacker out of the box.
For example, Todd Gurley’s first rushing touchdown of the season came out of 11 personnel. All three receivers were stacked wide right in a bunch, drawing a lot of attention from the secondary. Gerald Everett was the tight end, lining up on the left side next to Andrew Whitworth. Just before the snap, Robert Woods motioned across the formation, realigning as a wing while Gurley shifted from Goff’s right to his left. Thanks to the number of receivers the Colts defense was spread out, with just one middle linebacker between the tackles. The Rams ran a simple inside zone and Gurley pounded his way into the end zone for his first of many touchdowns on the season.
The next play is an example of the Rams passing out of 11 personnel. In this formation, three receivers are stacked in a bunch and the tight end Tyler Higbee is flexed out opposite them. Gurley is offset to Goff’s right and gets unaccounted for by the 49ers defense thanks to the multitude of targets that the Rams have on the field. With so much attention being drawn towards Watkins, Woods, and Kupp at the bottom of the screen Gurley is able to slip out of the backfield to the right, with his man “picked” by Higbee, and get to the end zone for a touchdown.
In Jacksonville, the Rams faced a lot of third and short opportunities. In the play shown they are in 12 personnel, with one of their tight ends lining up as a fullback. Both wide receivers aligned themselves to the formation. Woods and Watkins’ tight presence further condenses the defense. As a result, the Jaguars are able to get penetration through the Rams offensive front. In a more open formation, Gurley may have been able to make the tackle at his feet miss. However, that simply was not a possibility in that much traffic.
Our final play is a bonus… it is not just 12 personnel, it is 13! The Rams bring all three of their tight ends on the field here; Higbee, Everett, and Derek Carrier. Thanks to eight men being down on the line of scrimmage, Gurley is running at an absolutely stacked box. (Kind of like all of last season, Rams fans). While he does manage to fight his way through for about a yard and a half behind his pulling left guard and tackle, he is unable to get to the end zone.
A recent stat from ESPN showed that the Rams run the most 11 personnel plays in the league (520). The even more staggering number is the yards per play the team gains out of eleven personnel, 6.3. The Rams run the most 11 personnel in the league. Clearly, they also do it very well, maybe they should do it even more often.
All videos in this article courtesy of the NFL.
– Andrew Kelly is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Rams. He covers the Los Angeles Rams and is also the Divisional Editor for the NFC West. Like and follow on Follow @Andrew_K47 Follow @FPC_Rams and Facebook.