With playmakers all over, Sean McVay is excited to mix up Rams’ personnel groupings

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With all the talent the Los Angeles Rams have had at wide receiver since Sean McVay’s arrival in 2017, it’s easy to understand why they deploy 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR) so often. Keeping three wideouts on the field together makes a ton of sense when you have Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, as well as Sammy Watkins or Brandin Cooks – as the Rams had in 2017 and 2018-2019, respectively.

According to Sharp Football Stats, the Rams led the NFL in 11 personnel usage in 2018 at a whopping 89%. That number decreased in 2019 to 73%, follow by another decline last season (65%).

It’s primarily because McVay made a concerted effort to get Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett on the field together more often, utilizing 12 personnel 29% of the time last season. McVay explained the shift in the last two years on the “Flying Coach” podcast, saying he wants to mix up the team’s personnel groupings, but keeping Woods, Kupp or Cooks on the sideline wasn’t wise to do.

“It’s predicated on your players and the matchups, so there’s a lot of layers to this question. But what I would say is this: It always starts with your players,” he said. “When you look at it a couple years ago when we were heavy 11 personnel, you’ve got Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks. And to have one of those guys standing next to me on the sideline just didn’t seem like it made a whole lot of sense. So what I think we want to be able to get to, if you said, offensively, from an identity standpoint, you want to be able to mix your personnels, but you want to have some agility week in and week out to be able to dictate and determine what you think is the best way to attack an opposing defense, matchups, all those different things.”

Heading into this season, McVay isn’t sure what the Rams’ primary personnel package will be. They have so many options after their offseason moves, bringing in the likes of DeSean Jackson, Tutu Atwell and Jacob Harris.

He mentioned the possibility of using more two-back sets, as well, hinting that Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson could be on the field together – something that rarely happened last season.

“Gerald Everett was a really good football player for us, we felt like we wanted to get him on the field more,” McVay said. “He and Tyler Higbee represented a really good pairing. We’ve added a lot of guys to the mix this offseason that I think it’s to be determined. We know we’ve got Stafford, but being able to add guys like DeSean Jackson, Tutu Atwell. You’ve got a guy that’s played a lot of football for us at the tight end position at a really high level in Tyler Higbee. Johnny Mundt, Jacob Harris. So mixing and matching, we can play a couple backs at a time, so it’s to be determined and I can’t wait to hear what the percentages are in the normal down-and-distance personnel-wise for the Rams next year.”

It’s still almost certain that 11 personnel will be the most used grouping by the Rams, as it was by every team in the NFL last season. But there should be more diversity among McVay’s personnel packages.

The Rams can go five wide at times with Kupp, Woods, Jackson, Atwell and Van Jefferson. They could also put two receivers and two wideouts on the field together, with Akers and Henderson in the backfield and Atwell and Jackson outside.

Three-tight end groupings shouldn’t be ruled out, either, with some combination of Higbee, Mundt, Harris, and second-year pro, Brycen Hopkins. There are options abound for McVay this year, and Matthew Stafford should have no trouble finding receivers to target on a weekly basis.

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