AbsolutAnalysis - "Personnel Groupings"

Matt Lathrop, .NET's X's and O's guru, adds another chapter to his Virtual Playbook with a discussion of personnel groupings and route trees. In addition, new plays are discussed. Serious football students come aboard!

Welcome to this edition of AbsolutAnalysis.  This week we will continue laying the ground work for the installation of an offensive scheme by introducing the personnel groupings used in the NFL, as well as route trees and structures for receivers, tight ends, and running backs.  There are lots of diagrams this time around, which I believe makes the reading more enjoyable, as well as making the info easier to digest and understand.  Let's get started on personnel groups.

Before an offense sends a play into the huddle, it must first get the right personnel on the field, according to which formation they want to run out of.  Don't confuse formations with personnel here, as several formations can be run out of each personnel group.  The defense reacts to the offensive groups accordingly, sending in their own packages so they will be able to match up with the offensive players on the field.  For example, if the offense sends out extra receivers, then the defense would counter by sending in their nickel (5 defensive backs as opposed to the normal 4) and dime (6 defensive backs) packages to cover the new receivers.  This is a fundamental part of game planning and creating mismatches for the offense.  The coaches will look at how the opposing defense reacts to different groups, and determines how they would best be suited to attack the defense.  This is also the primary reason coaches and coordinators draw up play scripts to open the game.  They want to see what the defense will put out on the field in response to the different personnel groups the offense shows.  This gives the coaches an idea of what will be effective later in the game, and will preview possible mismatches they can capitalize on.  So enough talk, lets look at the different groups.

Below is a table with diagrams of the various personnel groups.  Remember, each formation is only an example of the various sets that can be employed; the main idea concerns the combination of positions on the field.  Between the QB and RB, I listed a name for each group. These are not universal terms, rather ones I picked.  They are not out of left field; the terminology is absolutely applicable and possible, but due to a lack of universal language, I got to decide.  These are the names I will use throughout the life of this column, especially once the season starts and I break down the games. 



                         2 RB                         
2 WR
1 TE



2 RB
2 TE
1 WR


2 RB
0 WR
3 TE



1 RB
2 WR

2 TE



2 RB
3 WR
0 TE



1 RB
3 WR
1 TE



1 RB
4 WR
0 TE




0 RB
5 WR
0 TE

Next, I'd like to introduce you to what are called "route trees."  These are ways to groups pass routes for WR's, TE's, and RB's in one chart.  If you remember from the last column, pass plays are often called using a numbering system, with each number representing a route to be ran.  For example, the play from out playbook included the call "628."  This means, from left to right, the pass patterns (routes) to be run are a 6 route, a 2 route, and an 8 route.  Below you will be able to determine which patterns those are by dissecting the tree. As you will notice, there are two diagrams for receivers and tight ends.  This is because there are obviously more than 9 routes for each position, but it is only practical to list 9 routes (although TE does include a 0 route).  To compensate, there are other routes that are called by name.  While route tree concepts are universal, different systems number different routes, depending on the frequency they are called.  I took what I believe to be common routes for the numbered tree, and provided others in the name diagram.  The RB's have no numbering system, due to the fact that their routes are tags, meaning the routes called for them are tagged onto the end of a play call.  This was used in last week's playbook example, "628 Swing."

WR Routes

General Rules:

-Odd numbers are to the outside, while evens are inside.

-The deeper the route, the bigger the number.

Here is a list of the routes and their respective numbers:

1 – Out (5-7 yards)

5 - Comeback

2 – Slant

6 – Dig/Square In

3 – Out (10-12 yards)

7 - Flag

4 - Hitch

8 – (Skinny) Post

9 – Fly/Go

TE Routes

TE route key:

0 – Look In/Pop

5 – Comeback

1 – Shoot

6 – Square In

2 – Drag

7 – Flag

3 – Out

8 – (Skinny) Post

4 – Hitch

9 – Seam/Go

RB Routes

That should be plenty of info for this week.  I hope you enjoyed the time we spent together, and as always. I'd love to hear from you, so feel free to Email me with any questions or comments.  Here are this week's plays.


Matt Lathrop writes "AbsolutAnalysis" for Seahawks.NET every Wednesday. Feel free to send him your feedback here.

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