Advantages to 12 Personnel

Why I Love 12 Personnel

-Chris Schisler

One of the most versatile personnel groupings in football is 12 personnel. For those who do not know 12 personnel means 1 back and 2 tight ends. If I were to run an offense in the NFL (which is clearly a hypothetical since I have no experience) I would want to run 12 personnel based offense. With 2 versatile tight ends I could give the defense many different formations with the same personnel. The offense would be a no-huddle attack that would constantly work to create the best matchups possible. Here are 3 advantages to 12 personnel.

1.) Be The Swiss Army Knife Offense.

Most nickel backs or safeties can handle a slot receiver. When you give them a big strong tight end that is always open due to his size and leaping ability, these defensive backs are often in trouble. Now imagine having two of these quick and big tight ends. The modern day tight end is the matchup nightmare for any defense. They are too quick for linebackers and too physically imposing for defensive backs. This is exactly why I want an offense that features 2 good tight ends.

A perfect second tight end needs to be the queen on the chess board that is the NFL grid iron. When the New England Patriots had Aaron Hernandez he was exactly that. Rob Gronkowski was the dominant playmaker down the field, which filled a more traditional tight end role. Hernandez moved all over the place. He would line up as a normal tight end; he would line up as a receiver and a slot and even in the backfield. You never knew exactly how the Patriots offense would align. Hernandez’s combination of speed, quickness and size made him a playmaker in his own right but it was his ability to do anything and everything that made it so hard to stop.

A tight end combination this explosive is hard to find. The second tight end on the depth chart is usually more of a blocker who has some skill as a receiver. The #2 TE does not need to be your biggest weapon. This player should be one of your most versatile players. He needs to be able to do more of the dirty work (blocking) and he needs to have reliable hands and decent athleticism. Some of the best TE combinations in football are teams like the Bengals with Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham; the Chargers with Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green and the Saints with Jimmy Graham and Benjamin Watson.

2.) Balance and Unbalance

The most common formation in 12 personnel is to have a tight end on both sides. This kind of forces the defense to stay balanced. They have to at least account for both tight ends in the passing game. This also allows the offense to use either side as the strong side in the running game.

I personally love the use of unbalanced offensive lines. If both tight ends are on the same side this gives two extra blockers on one side of the field. One of my favorite run plays is a counter away from the double tight ends. If you have an extra player on a side of the field, you can bet the defense has an extra defender on that side of the line or they have shifted their defensive line to the strong side. On a counter the running back starts as if he is running to one side and cuts to the other side. This play can be so deadly and is just a beginning to the fun you can have with an unbalanced line.

3.) Pass Protection 

With 12 Personnel you have two tight ends and a running back. That gives you the ability to use anywhere from 5 man protections to 8 man protections. 8 man protections however severely cripple your passing attack because it only sends out 2 receivers. In 12 personnel you can switch up your protections schemes really nicely.

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