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Friday, September 27, 2013
Positional groupings: Pats favor 3rd WR

By Mike Reiss

One of the things that will be charted on a weekly basis is the positional groupings utilized by the New England Patriots' offense, as they reveal player value and take us deeper into the X's and O's of how coordinator Josh McDaniels is attempting to attack the opposition.

Here is the big takeaway through three games: The usage of multiple-tight-end packages is down considerably compared to the past two seasons. Here is a simplified breakdown of the team's 232 offensive snaps (including penalties, not kneel-downs):

3 or more WRs: 142 of 232
2 backs: 61 of 232
2 or more TEs: 51 of 232

There is a 22-play overlap, which accounts for snaps in which there was a combination of 3 WRs/2 backs and 2-3 TEs/2 backs.

Four-year veteran Michael Hoomanawanui is playing most of the tight-end snaps.

When the Patriots added a second tight end last Sunday, it was either rookie Zach Sudfeld or veteran Matthew Mulligan. Sudfeld is more of a receiver-type, while Mulligan is more of a pure blocker. Because each of them trends clearly in one direction, it makes the Patriots a bit more predictable when they are in the game in multiple-tight-end packages.

So with a heavy focus on the passing game the first three weeks, it has essentially come down to a third receiver (most recently Aaron Dobson) being deemed more valuable than Sudfeld.

When Rob Gronkowski returns, it makes sense to think we could see an increase in multiple-tight-end groupings.