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Friday, December 20, 2013
Groupings: Fullback plays larger role

By Mike Reiss

One of the things that will be charted on a weekly basis is the positional groupings used 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.

The biggest takeaway from last Sunday's loss to the Dolphins was a spike in fullback usage, as the Patriots called on their 2 WR/1 TE/1 FB/1 RB package 22 times, using it more than double than the more traditional 2 WR/2 TE/1 RB package (10 times).

The Patriots also ran four snaps out of the not-often-seen 3 WR/1 FB/1 RB grouping and had another three out of the 1 WR/2 TE/1 FB/1 RB grouping.

This is part of the trickle-down effect of the Patriots playing without tight end Rob Gronkowski and looking for combinations that work. While part of it could be game-plan specific, it is a reminder that fullback James Develin shouldn't be overlooked as one of the players whose opportunities could rise post-Gronkowski.

For the season, here is a simplified breakdown of the team's 977 offensive snaps (including penalties, not kneel-downs):

3 or more WRs: 625 of 1,058
2 backs (mostly RB/FB combo): 255 of 1,058
2 or more TEs: 251 of 1,058

There is a 73-play overlap, which accounts for snaps in which there was a combination of 3 WRs/2 backs and 2-3 TEs/2 backs.