Chip Kelly and Defensive Personnel Packages

Mike Clay charts the defensive personnel packages faced by each NFL offense this season and discovers how defenses are attempting to slow the Eagles' new-look offense.

| 3 years ago
chip-kelly

Chip Kelly and Defensive Personnel Packages


chip-kellyChip Kelly is doing something right.

When Kelly entered the NFL this past offseason – fresh off his days as one of the more innovative minds at the NCAA level – opinions on his ability to convert his philosophy to the NFL level were quite polarizing.

The pessimists said it wouldn’t work. His offense was a gimmick that would only work against lesser defensive talent at the collegiate level. NFL defensive coordinators would figure him out and shut his offense down.

The optimists understood that Kelly’s offense wasn’t simply a wildcat-esque gimmick. It was a philosophy that was based around exploiting the conventional defensive approach. Why force a run against a stacked box when you can allow the quarterback to read the defense and adjust to a player with better odds of success? Rolling out a Nickel defense against the Eagles ‘11’ personnel? They’ll run it at you. Trying out Base in order to stop the NFL’s No. 5 run-heaviest team? They’ll unleash Nick Foles and Company. I’m only tipping the iceberg today, but as the numbers show, there’s no simple way to slow down the Eagles’ offense under Chip Kelly.

This article will include a handful of charts showing comparisons between all 32 NFL clubs. My focus will mainly be on the two teams on the polar opposite side of each category: the aforementioned Eagles and the 49ers.

 

<4 Def Backs

Base

Nickel

Dime

>6 Def. Backs

Tm

DR

DB

DR

DB

DR

DB

DR

DB

DR

DB

ARZ

4%

1%

51%

31%

43%

45%

2%

19%

0%

1%

ATL

2%

1%

54%

23%

40%

57%

3%

19%

0%

1%

BLT

10%

1%

52%

20%

28%

56%

10%

22%

0%

1%

BUF

4%

0%

58%

27%

35%

50%

2%

20%

1%

2%

CAR

6%

2%

69%

41%

24%

47%

1%

10%

0%

1%

CHI

7%

1%

51%

28%

41%

56%

2%

12%

0%

2%

CIN

5%

0%

64%

38%

30%

51%

1%

10%

0%

0%

CLV

5%

0%

63%

30%

28%

58%

3%

9%

0%

2%

DAL

3%

1%

54%

31%

41%

48%

2%

18%

0%

2%

DEN

2%

1%

38%

16%

58%

78%

2%

6%

0%

0%

DET

0%

1%

27%

25%

64%

58%

8%

17%

0%

0%

GB

1%

0%

44%

17%

54%

75%

1%

7%

0%

0%

HST

2%

1%

69%

41%

23%

35%

6%

22%

0%

1%

IND

6%

1%

58%

28%

32%

55%

2%

15%

0%

1%

JAX

3%

1%

53%

29%

39%

48%

5%

18%

0%

5%

KC

8%

1%

65%

33%

22%

51%

5%

14%

0%

1%

MIA

5%

0%

56%

25%

34%

55%

5%

19%

0%

1%

MIN

4%

1%

80%

37%

15%

54%

1%

8%

0%

0%

NE

3%

1%

50%

24%

34%

42%

12%

31%

0%

1%

NO

6%

2%

64%

31%

23%

44%

7%

22%

0%

1%

NYG

5%

0%

67%

27%

22%

54%

5%

15%

1%

3%

NYJ

5%

1%

49%

27%

40%

47%

6%

25%

0%

0%

OAK

5%

1%

73%

44%

19%

35%

3%

16%

0%

3%

PHI

0%

0%

16%

6%

82%

85%

2%

9%

0%

0%

PIT

4%

0%

59%

24%

34%

60%

3%

14%

0%

1%

SD

4%

1%

47%

22%

42%

60%

6%

17%

0%

1%

SEA

4%

2%

60%

34%

33%

54%

3%

10%

0%

0%

SF

21%

5%

69%

52%

7%

29%

3%

13%

0%

1%

SL

3%

1%

76%

32%

20%

62%

0%

5%

0%

0%

TB

3%

1%

65%

28%

31%

60%

1%

10%

0%

0%

TEN

8%

2%

72%

25%

14%

47%

6%

26%

0%

0%

WAS

3%

0%

76%

33%

20%

54%

1%

10%

0%

2%

This first chart is, as Keith Jackson might put it, the “Grand Daddy of them all”. What you’re looking at is the different defensive packages faced by each offense this season. ‘DB’ refers to Drop backs and ‘DR’ stands for Designed Runs.

Many of you will find intrigue in your favorite team’s splits, but there’s no question that a glance over the Eagles numbers is fairly incredible. Consider that Philadelphia has utilized ‘11’ personnel (in short, three wide receivers) on an NFL-high 75.5 percent of their offensive snaps this season. That explains some of why defenses use Nickel so often. But, what’s really odd here is the fact that the Eagles are, as mentioned, such a run-oriented offense. Yet defenses are still in Nickel 85 percent of the time when Philly calls a pass and 82 percent when they call run. The NFL Yards-Per-Carry (YPC) average is 4.2, but jumps up to 4.8 when ‘11’ matches up with Nickel. That’s a fairly large improvement.

Nickel

Rk

Tm

DR

DB

1

SF

7%

29%

2

SEA

33%

54%

3

CAR

24%

47%

4

NYJ

40%

47%

5

PHI

82%

85%

6

BUF

35%

50%

7

NE

34%

42%

8

GB

54%

75%

9

OAK

19%

35%

10

SD

42%

60%

This chart lists the 10 run-heaviest teams in the league. No one runs it more often than the 49ers. They’ve faced Nickel on just seven percent of their called runs and 29 percent of their passes. Although both are league lows, they’re, at least, in the vicinity of the other run-heavy teams in the league. The Eagles, meanwhile, seem like they don’t belong anywhere near this list. The Packers see Nickel on 54 percent of their runs (good news for Eddie Lacy fans), and that’s the team next-closest to the Eagles’ 82 percent.

Say what you want about Kelly, but he’s certainly creating a major advantage for his tailbacks. Consider that LeSean McCoy has faced Base defense on only 21 of his carries this season. That’s compared to 165 vs. Nickel. For perspective, Frank Gore has seen Base on 123 of his attempts, compared to just five vs. Nickel.

  Percentages     Ranks
Tm <4 Base Nickel Dime >6   Tm <4 Base Nickel Dime >6
ARZ 2% 39% 44% 13% 1% ARZ 16 17 17 11 10
ATL 1% 32% 52% 14% 0% ATL 29 27 6 7 17
BLT 4% 32% 45% 17% 1% BLT 2 28 15 3 11
BUF 2% 40% 44% 13% 1% BUF 21 15 20 13 8
CAR 4% 54% 36% 6% 0% CAR 4 3 27 29 20
CHI 3% 36% 51% 9% 2% CHI 9 23 8 20 4
CIN 2% 48% 42% 7% 0% CIN 12 8 21 26 24
CLV 2% 40% 49% 7% 2% CLV 15 16 9 23 6
DAL 2% 39% 46% 13% 2% DAL 24 18 13 12 5
DEN 1% 24% 70% 4% 0% DEN 28 31 2 31 24
DET 0% 26% 60% 14% 0% DET 31 30 4 10 24
GB 1% 28% 67% 4% 0% GB 30 29 3 30 23
HST 1% 52% 30% 16% 1% HST 27 4 30 6 9
IND 3% 39% 47% 10% 1% IND 8 19 12 19 14
JAX 1% 37% 45% 14% 3% JAX 26 20 16 9 1
KC 3% 45% 40% 11% 0% KC 5 10 24 16 21
MIA 2% 36% 48% 14% 0% MIA 17 24 11 8 18
MIN 2% 51% 40% 6% 0% MIN 13 5 25 27 24
NE 2% 35% 39% 23% 1% NE 19 25 26 1 13
NO 3% 43% 36% 16% 1% NO 6 12 28 4 12
NYG 2% 42% 42% 11% 2% NYG 18 14 22 15 2
NYJ 3% 37% 44% 16% 0% NYJ 10 21 19 5 22
OAK 2% 56% 29% 11% 2% OAK 11 2 31 17 3
PHI 0% 11% 83% 6% 0% PHI 32 32 1 28 24
PIT 2% 36% 51% 11% 0% PIT 23 22 7 18 19
SD 2% 32% 53% 13% 1% SD 14 26 5 14 15
SEA 3% 46% 44% 7% 0% SEA 7 9 18 22 24
SF 13% 61% 18% 8% 0% SF 1 1 32 21 16
SL 2% 49% 45% 3% 0% SL 19 7 14 32 24
TB 2% 43% 48% 7% 0% TB 22 13 10 25 24
TEN 4% 44% 34% 18% 0% TEN 3 11 29 2 24
WAS 1% 50% 41% 7% 1% WAS 25 6 23 24 7

This final chart simply combines the initial chart into all plays, instead of splitting it between passes and runs. For example, we see here that the Eagles have seen Base defense on only 11 percent of their offensive plays. The Patriots, meanwhile, see Dime a league-high 23 percent of the time. The chart to the right simply ranks each team based on the chart to the left.

There’s still a ton of work to be done on this data, including a normalization of the percentages based on the offensive personnel on the field. Look for that down the road.

In the meantime, consider how much of an advantage it is for NFL offenses to be able to dictate defensive personnel. Kelly must be salivating at the thought of Zach Ertz developing into an every-down player. The Eagles already have defenses on their toes while in the ‘11’ and will only be better when they have a move-tight end who can run block when the defense is in Nickel and run a route when the defense brings an extra linebacker on the field.

Despite underwhelming depth at their offensive skill positions, the Eagles sit No. 4 in the NFL in offensive touchdowns per game in Year ½ of the Chip Kelly offense. Things are only going get better.

 

  • Samuel Dobbs

    Just love these stats. You have a way of making the intricacies of the game look so simple. Very nicely done Mr. Clay.

    • Mike Clay

      Appreciate that, Sam. Thanks for reading.