The Packers’ 12 personnel group was one that the Packers want to use more in 2017. Last season they used it with some success at times but with the addition of Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks, it would seem that group should be improved from last year. But the passing game is not the only aspect of the offense that will benefit from these additions. The Packers like to run a “power play action” in obvious running downs and this play should have a chance to be successful in 2017. One example from 2016 came in the week 7 matchup against the Bears. Let’s break it down.
The Packers start out throwing the ball a lot in this game…Aaron Rodgers threw the ball almost 60 times in this game and had 17 passes before the end of the first quarter. This was due to the absence of Eddie Lacy, who had to leave the Cowboy’s game the previous week, and also the fact that Ty Montgomery and Don Jackson would be leading the charge on the ground.
So coach McCarthy put the game on the shoulders of Aaron Rodgers and let the passing game lead the way, though Montogomery, by the end of the game, had a respectable 60 yards on nine carries (though his long was half of that yardage) and an additional 10 receptions for 66 yards. Montgomery was quite polished looking catching out of the backfield, lending to the notion that he would become a good running back in dire circumstances for the Pack. This, as we all now know, proved to be true.
But at the time, the Packers were still unsure what they had in Monty or what part of the running game he would be able to handle as he was learning on the fly. So McCarthy chose to use him out of the backfield to great effect and work him into the ground game slowly. One way he protected Montgomery was with what has been called the “power play action”.
Power play action is basically a heavy run formation from the 12 personnel group (1 tailback, 2 tight ends, 2 wide receivers) that forces the defense to commit defenders to the box but uses the fleet feet and agility of Aaron Rodgers to look for a perimeter receiver on the rollout. Early in the first offensive series, with a second and 9 on their own side of the fifty, the Packers rolled it out. With second and long an obvious running down, the Packers put Richard Rodgers and Justin Perillo in (Cook is out with injury), with Rodgers on the line and Perillo in the flex. In the pre-snap, Perillo motions to the left side of the line creating a balanced line and forcing the Bears defenders on that side to spread out a yard. We now have a symmetrical formation with an extra blocker on each side and a single set back in Ty Montgomery. The table is surely set for a pass.
The perimeter receivers are Jordy Nelson, who always requires attention, and Trevor Davis (not Janis or Adams) the Packers’ speed-burner, singled up with safety help. Perimeter receivers split as wide as Nelson and Davis are, would seem (on 2nd and 9) to be there to pull the single corners as far out of the play as possible.
At the snap, the line (including Perillo, now on the left) blocks hard right as Montgomery comes up to complete the fake and the defense gets completely sucked in. There is one problem though. The play design does not expect either of the perimeter receivers to be open, their job is to pull the perimeter defender and threaten the safety at depth. Jordy Nelson, lined up on the right sideline, does run an inbreaking route in hopes of giving Rodgers a target but he has two defenders when all is said and done. It is Richard Rodgers who has the advantage of both the linebacker getting sucked in and the simple fact that he is on a linebacker to his advantage, but he can’t get open. Rodgers rolls left off play action and has nowhere to go. He has to throw the ball away, bringing up 3rd and long.
Fast forward to 2017. With Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks available for plays like this, I see the Packers being able to do so much out of the 12 personnel grouping and this is one play that I can’t wait to see come back. Put Martellus Bennett behind the linebacker who has stepped up to commit to the run and you have a recipe for a big play. Bennett can block and everyone knows it so this play will work for the run as well but the power play action could be deadly in the upcoming year. Lance Kendricks will be a nice addition to this set as well and I think will show enough to take Rodgers’ place earlier rather than later.
All-in-all, the Packers 12 personnel group has a lot of potential and myriad ways in which it can stress a defense. It will be exciting to see how the addition of Bennett and Kendricks, along with the development of Montogmery and Ripkowski make Mike McCarthy’s job easier…and defense’s jobs oh, so much harder.