Aaron Rodgers, NY Jets, Offensive Scheme
Aaron Rodgers, New York Jets, Getty Images

Could Nathaniel Hackett bring even more two-TE sets to the New York Jets offense?

Under offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, the New York Jets were known as a team that liked to place two tight ends on the field together. In 2022, LaFleur’s Jets utilized “12 personnel” packages (1 RB/2 TE/2 WR) on 22.4% of their offensive plays, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, which ranked ninth-highest in the NFL.

Nathaniel Hackett will take LaFleur’s place in 2023. And based on Hackett’s history, there is a chance the Jets could use 12 personnel packages even more frequently.

Hackett’s Denver Broncos led the NFL in 12 personnel usage this past season, utilizing the package on 30.9% of their offensive plays. This is something he carried over from his stint as the Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator from 2019 to 2021. In 2021, his final season in Green Bay, the Packers ranked second in 12 personnel usage at 30.3%.

At this point, we don’t know for sure whether Hackett plans to continue using 12 personnel in New York as often as he did in Denver and Green Bay. However, there are reasons to believe Hackett does plan to carry over his previous sky-high levels of 12 personnel usage.

One of these reasons came from the latest episode of the Jets’ offseason documentary, “Flight 23: Ascension.” Based on footage of the Jets’ war room in the moments leading up to their 15th overall pick, it appears the team was seriously considering Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer in the first round.

The Jets, of course, would pass on Mayer and did not select a tight end until the seventh round (Zack Kuntz). But the fact they even considered Mayer in the first round is a sign they are valuing the position highly. Their consideration of Mayer is especially notable when you take into account that the Jets already invested a lot of capital into their tight end unit in 2022; they gave a combined total of $25 million guaranteed to C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin in free agency last year, and they also drafted Jeremy Ruckert in the third round.

Because of those aforementioned 2022 investments, the Jets are still well-equipped to handle a high rate of two-TE sets even without having made another big addition this offseason. With Conklin, Uzomah, and Ruckert, the Jets have three tight ends they seem to like.

It’s possible Hackett could choose to stray from his past tendencies and use 12 personnel far less often than he did at his previous stops. We still have to wait and see how everything plays out on the field.

For now, though, there seems to be a good chance Hackett will carry over his abundant usage of 12 personnel.

And there is one great reason it would make a lot of sense: Aaron Rodgers loves throwing out of 12 personnel. These packages have gotten the absolute best out of an already-elite quarterback.

Take a look at Rodgers’ production on 12 personnel plays over the past three seasons (2020-22) and where he ranks among quarterbacks over that span.

  • Pass attempts: 352 (3rd)
  • Completions: 262 (2nd)
  • Yards: 2,723 (3rd)
  • Passing touchdowns: 22 (2nd)
  • Interceptions: 4 (11th-most)
  • Total EPA (Expected Points Added): 95.44 (1st)
  • EPA per dropback: 0.26 (1st)
  • Completion percentage: 74.4% (2nd)
  • Passer rating: 112.4 (2nd)

Since 2020, Rodgers leads all qualified quarterbacks (min. 100 passes out of 12 personnel) in EPA per dropback on 12 personnel plays at 0.26. He is also second in completion percentage (74.4%) and second in passer rating (112.4).

Some might think this isn’t particularly notable, as the future Hall of Famer is dominant in just about any situation.

This was true in 2020 and 2021. In those two seasons, you could choose any filter you want and Rodgers would likely top the chart.

It’s the 2022 season that really demonstrated just how much Rodgers benefits from 12 personnel packages. Rodgers’ overall statistical production slipped dramatically in 2022. Yet, even in a season where his numbers were down in many areas, Rodgers remained surgical when throwing out of 12 personnel.

In 2022, Rodgers led the NFL with 34.0 total EPA on 12 personnel plays, and his average of 0.26 EPA per dropback was identical to his average over the previous two seasons. Overall, Rodgers went 91 of 126 (72.2%) for 971 yards, eight touchdowns, and two interceptions, earning a passer rating of 108.9.

When the Packers utilized anything other than 12 personnel in 2022, Rodgers had an 85.7 passer rating and averaged -0.17 EPA per dropback.

It seems clear that 12 personnel packages are a great fit for Rodgers. For this reason alone, the Jets would be wise to use as much of it as possible.

But why? Why does Rodgers perform so well with this particular package?

It’s simple: play action. The 12 personnel package puts the offense in an advantageous position to run play-action, and Rodgers maximizes this advantage better than anyone.

Using 12 personnel is a great way to set up the play-action pass. The presence of an extra tight end does two things: one, it forces the defense to switch into a heavier/slower personnel package, and two, it prompts the defenders on the field to feel there is a greater chance of a run, making them more susceptible to biting on a play fake. Because of these factors, the play fake becomes especially effective.

League-wide trends back up this claim. Over the past three seasons (2020-22), these are the league-average passing stats on play-action dropbacks out of 12 personnel: 96.4 passer rating, 0.08 EPA per dropback, and 8.3 yards per attempt. Compare those numbers to the league averages on any other dropback that is not play-action out of 12 personnel: 89.8 passer rating, -0.02 EPA per dropback, and 7.0 yards per attempt.

It’s a very efficient play. Even the league-average quarterback looks great when running it. And yet, despite the league averages in this situation being quite gaudy, Rodgers soars well beyond expectations. He is as efficient as it gets at a play that already has a high benchmark of efficiency.

Rodgers’ numbers on play-action plays out of 12 personnel are otherworldly. He is even further ahead of the rest of the league in these situations than he is on the typical 12-personnel play.

Since 2020, when using play-action on 12 personnel, Rodgers averages 0.32 EPA per dropback with a passer rating of 122.4. He’s thrown 13 touchdowns in this situation – five more than any other quarterback – and just one interception. His total of 55.3 EPA leads the NFL, and there are only five other quarterbacks who have accumulated even just half of that total.

Comparatively, Rodgers averages 0.21 EPA per dropback with a passer rating of 103.2 when throwing out of 12 personnel without play action. Obviously, that is still outstanding, but it is a few steps back from his play-action numbers, which demonstrates just how much of an alien he is in that specific situation.

When you think about the primary aspects of Rodgers’ skill set that make him a great quarterback, his success with play-action out of 12 personnel is no surprise. His quick processing speed, fast throwing motion, and ability to throw from different arm angles are maximized in these situations.

On play-action plays, the quarterback turns his back to the defense for a significant portion of the play, which means it is extremely important for the quarterback to process information quickly once he finally turns his eyes to the secondary. Rodgers, a football genius, is elite at this. Toss in the speed of his release, and Rodgers is perfectly built for the rapid pace of a play-action rep.

Another common feature of play-action plays is putting the quarterback on the move. This is even more common out of 12 personnel, when the presence of an extra tight end makes it easier to aggressively establish the threat of the run on one side and set up a rollout to the other. Throwing on the move requires the quarterback to be proficient at throwing from awkward angles and platforms. As we know, Rodgers is a pioneer in this area.

Expect the Jets to run plenty of 12 personnel this year. It has proven itself to be a wonderful tool for maximizing the best traits of an all-time great quarterback.

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Michael Nania is one of the best analytical New York Jets minds in the world, combining his statistical expertise with game film to add proper context to the data. Nania scrapes every corner, ensuring you know all there is to know about everyone from the QB to the long snapper. Nania's Numbers, Nania's QB Grades, and Nania's All-22 give fans a deeper and more well-rounded dive into the Jets than anyone else can offer. Email: michael.nania[at]jetsxfactor.com - Twitter: @Michael_Nania
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Peter Buell
Peter Buell
3 months ago

It would seem to me with my limited knowledge of formation names that in the “12” set up Brece Hall, assuming health, would be a huge weapon in this formation.
If one TE goes to the flat, the other down the seam sending Breece on a wheel route would give opportunities to be wide open with the linebackers split covering the tight ends..Breece down the left sideline would be a huge weapon.
One of the most exciting plays from last season was Zack Wilson hitting Hall on a wheel for a 75 yard td.
I would also like to see him out wide occasionally. We traded for Bell hoping for that type of player.
Now we have one that is home grown and if healthy has the opportunity to be as good.
All due respect to Curtis Martin, I’ve never seen a Jet rb with this type of explosion.