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Teams can’t ‘load the box’ vs Todd Gurley thanks to Sean McVay...

October 11, 2018 07:29AM
Teams can't load the box vs. Todd Gurley thanks to Sean McVay

Cameron DaSilva


You’d be hard-pressed to find a team in the NFL that utilizes 11 personnel more than the Los Angeles Rams do. They led the league in that department last season at 80 percent, constantly putting three wide receivers, one tight end and one receiver on the field.

That trend has continued this year, too, with Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and Brandin Cooks playing nearly every snap when healthy. It’s almost become the base personnel grouping in football now, and that’s for a variety of reasons.

Not only does it make it easier to throw the ball by giving the quarterback more targets, but it opens things up for the running game. Todd Gurley has been a huge beneficiary of Sean McVay’s reliance on 11 personnel, seeing far fewer “loaded boxes” than in years past.

This season, opponents have put eight defenders in the box just 9.9 percent of the time, per Next Gen Stats. That’s the second-lowest rate of any running back with only Jamaal Williams seeing fewer loaded boxes (5.66 percent).

Last season, Gurley faced the third-lowest percentage of stacked boxes at 16.85 percent, which was a huge reason for his breakout campaign. In 2016 with Jeff Fisher at the helm for much of the season, teams stacked the box 25.9 percent of the time against Gurley.

By putting three receivers on the field, teams can’t keep three linebackers on the field and in the box. That leaves matchup nightmares on the outside with either safeties or linebackers covering receivers, and the Vikings know exactly how that typically works out.

Additionally, McVay uses motion across the formation pretty frequently, which moves the eyes of linebackers and pulls defenders out of the box and opens up the middle of the field. It’s brilliant scheming by McVay, and Gurley is capitalizing on it to the tune of 415 yards and seven touchdowns on the year.

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