Punch Drunk Wonderland

Does the Two-Tight End Set Provide an Offensive Boost?

The Gronkowski/Hernandez pairing in New England introduced us to a new world of tight end usage in the NFL.  Teams (particularly those with top notch passing games) have started following the pattern and have began looking more into the two-tight end sets.  You see it in young offenses as Indianapolis drafted two rookie tight ends early in 2012 (Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen) and Cincinnati added Tyler Eifert to pair with Jermaine Gresham. Other examples of teams experimenting with multiple tight ends and the “12” personnel package can be seen around the league

Does the two-tight end set legitimately provide an edge for the offenses that can run it? Our friends and numberFire.com have taken a look.

I released a previous article detailing the effect of the two tight end set, also known as “12 personnel”, on the value of the tight end position itself. You can read that article here. Today, though, the interest is in what these outsized playmakers do to help their quarterbacks and the rest of their offense as a whole.

To do this, I established a baseline definition for a “starting” tight end by gathering all tight ends who played on 50% or more of their team’s offensive snaps in any given season in the last five years – between 2009 and 2013. I then separated those who had a teammate also in on 50% or more of their team’s offensive snaps and used this group of pairs as our “12 personnel” pool; the other group was our standard set control group, with only one “starting” tight end per team. All in all, of the 160 team seasons played between 2009 and 2013 (32 teams multiplied by five years), there were only 25 instances of a team heavily utilizing two tight ends in any given season.

After this, I simply charted the corresponding quarterback and total offense seasons with these and compared them to the seasons for quarterbacks and offenses that did not utilize the two tight end set. Between these two groups, I averaged and explored some of our key numberFire metrics, including our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric. NEP is a measure of how much a player or team advances their chances of scoring due to any given play on any given drive. For instance, when a quarterback makes a pass that raises his team’s expected points on that drive from 1 to 3, then that two-point difference is credited to his NEP score. Specifically, this type of NEP is called Passing NEP – NEP accumulated on any drop backs by the quarterback – and we will use it to examine the value of our quarterbacks in different offensive schemes. For more on NEP, check out our glossary here.

Continue reading at numberFire.com… (@numberfire)



K. Smelser About K. Smelser
Kelly Smelser is Owner/Senior Writer for Punch Drunk Wonderland and PDFantasy Sports. Architect of the PDW fantasy football world and general spinster of NFL and Fantasy Football news and analysis. Long walks on the beach, sunsets, and other such niceties are also fine...