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Sunday, December 7, 2008
Taking personnel breakdowns to another level

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Some tweaking has taken the usual postgame breakdowns to another level in terms of analyzing personnel use across situations.

I'll offer for download a reworked version of the Cardinals' personnel breakdown against the Rams from Week 9 this season. We can now match production across personnel groups to down (and distance for third downs).

Example: We can now see that Arizona used the four-receiver package featuring J.J. Arrington five times on first down, once on second down and three times on third down. Within the third-down group, we see Arizona used it once on third-and-3 to third-and-6, twice on third-and-7 to third-and-10 and once from third-and-11 or longer.

We see that Tim Hightower's involvement with this personnel group featured five of six plays on first or second down. We can also see how the Cardinals used their one-back, three-receiver offense -- mostly on second down and mostly with Hightower.

When you compare this information across groups, you get a more nuanced look at how a team uses its players on offense. I have also added breakdowns focusing on I-formation, offset-I, empty backfields, split backfields, etc. Those are toward the bottom of the sheet.

The next project is setting up a file that will allow for this type of analysis across a full season. It's just a matter of tweaking some formulas as time permits. As always, your ideas are appreciated. I added the I-formation and offset-I features on request and can generally add other features within reason.