Why 12 personnel package key to LA Rams success with QB Stafford
By Bret Stuter
The LA Rams offense has been a 24-month mystery. Since the 2019 season, the very offense that led the league in 2017 and was the second-ranked offense in 2018, seems to feature what does not work. Then, when the offense seems to discover plays and formations that have worked. those formations and play sit on the shelf for weeks at a time.
Case in point, the LA Rams usage of the 12 personnel package. Throughout the 2019 season, the offense struggled to protect the quarterback long enough for deep routes. To help the offensive line, the Rams opted for a tight end-centric offense. The results were spectacular.
Running back Todd Gurley rushed for more yardage per game and per play, and the Rams discovered that tight end Tyler Higbee has some tremendous upside. For the month of December 2019, he played the month by putting up 522 yards and a touchdown. That was just one month’s time.
That proficiency carried over into 2020 when Higbee slammed the Philadelphia Eagles in the second game of the season for three touchdowns. In the first two games of the 2020 season, Higbee was eight of nine for 94 yards and three touchdowns. He would only put up 427 yards and two touchdowns for the remainder of the season.
So why is the 12 personnel package so successful? Those are the offensive plays that feature two tight ends, two wide receivers, and one running back. From an offensive blocking perspective, two tight ends give more blockers on the offensive line. From a rushing game perspective, it gives remarkable flexibility in allowing the Rams to feature tight ends lined up wide, tight, or even in the backfield.
Here is a nice video of former Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett discussing the versatility of two tight-end formations.
Of course, the true reason for any change in the number and types of receivers should be to improve the passing game. But it’s the old adage about leading a horse to water but not being able to force him to drink. Over four seasons under Jared Goff, no tight end ever landed higher as a receiver than third, and the pass offense was stuck at an 1100 yard plateau no matter how many or who were on the field at the tight end position.
Matthew Stafford may bring a new perspective to the Rams offense. He will use the tight ends and the running backs actively in the passing game and could bring a new appreciation for the Rams tight ends.
With the exodus of both Gerald Everett and Johnny Mundt, the Rams will likely feature Tyler Higbee but will see ample doses of second-year player Brycen Hopkins. Will the Rams shop for another tight end? Perhaps. But the burden of the 2021 NFL season will fall upon Higbee and Hopkins.
Will the Rams use more 12-personnel packages in 2021? Well, it’s been a very good formation for the Rams, both in the running and in the passing game. It helps the team keep a cleaner pocket while giving a booster shot to the running game. And with the football ending up in the hands of second-year rusher Cam Akers, I would not be surprised to find the offense working hard to ease his way earlier in the season. Two tight ends and one new quarterback. It may now seem sexy, but it could be a huge step in the right direction for the 2021 NFL season.