Game Play Thursday : Personnel Groups, Pt 2

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Last week we started breaking down the concept of personnel groups, a concept that will completely revolutionize how you view who’s on the field and what’s going on, and today we’re going to break it down even more.

If you’re going to tackle a piece of football knowledge pre-playoffs, this is it! It’ll be your most enjoyable post-season yet!

Ok, so just a quick review: personnel groups are identified by the number of running backs and tight ends on the field on a given play – in that order: running backs and then tight ends – and wide receivers aren’t counted. So on a play that contains 2 running backs, 1 tight end, and 2 wide receivers we know that a 21 personnel group is on the field: 2 is the number of runnings backs, 1 is the number of tight ends, and wide receivers aren’t included in the personnel group.

But even though they aren’t verbally named, since we know that only 5 running backs/tight ends/wide receivers are on the field at one time (because only 11 players are allowed on the field from each unit and 6 postions are occupied by the offensive line and quarterback, so that leaves 5 spots of skill players) we know how many wide receivers are on the field based on the personnel group. If it’s 11 personnel – 1 running back and 1 tight end – that means there are 3 wide receivers on the field (2 spot are taken in the personnel group, which leaves room for 3 wide receivers).

Got it? I’m sure you do!

Now, it’s one thing to know what the whole personnel group system means, it’s another to be able to identify the players on the field. That’s what we’re going to do today.

There are three ways to know who is on the field at any given time:

1. Know your team! The easiest way to know who’s on the field is to know the players on the team you love. If you know the depth chart – who plays each position – you’ll know what personnel group is on the field by the players who are in the huddle.

2. Know the jersey numbers. If you are watching a game against teams you aren’t as familiar with, it’s helpful to know which jersey numbers are assigned to each position so you can use jerseys, not the players you know, to determine which players are on the field and what the personnel group is. Keep this handy until you know it well:

  • Quarterbacks and kickers wear from 1 to 19.
  • Running backs and defensive backs wear from 20 to 49.
  • Linebackers wear from 50 to 59 or 90 to 99.
  • Offensive linemen wear from 50 to 79.
  • Defensive linemen wear from 60 to 79 or 90 to 99.
  • Receivers wear from 10 to 19 or 80 to 89.

This isn’t concrete – sometimes players are allowed to wear numbers outside of their position (like Bear’s WR Devin Hester, who wears 23) – but by and large you can decipher a player’s position by their uniform number.

3. Know where plays (usually) line up. This one can be tremendously helpful but also tremendously tricky, because players line up all over the place and sometimes line up out of position. But in general, you can usually tell which players are on the field by where they line up. Here’s a standard formation:

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  • The tight end lines up close to the offensive line (and occasionally midfield)
  • The wide receivers line up on the outside of the formation
  • The running backs line up in the backfield (and occasionally midfield)

So in this formation, we have 1 running back, 1 tight end, and 3 wide receivers. So what personnel group is out on the field?

You got it! It’s the 11 personnel group.

Ok, now let’s put all of your hard-earned smarts to the test. Here are five examples of offensive formations. Take a look, decide which personnel group is in, and leave your answers in the comments! I can’t wait to see how you do, but most of all, I can’t wait for you to embrace this information and run with it!

Ready? Set? GO!

Example 1:

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Example 2:

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Example 3:

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Example 4:

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Example 5:

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And if you have any questions, leave those in the comments, too! Anything goes!

Author: Beka