A Question to Ponder: Why is the 22 package not as effective this year?

Wesley Hitt

Our 22 formation has been much more unsuccessful this year on first down. Why?

David forwarded me an email the other day from Pro Football Focus' Jeff Deeney. In it, he listed out some interesting information, which I will reproduce below:

Percentage of time using 22 personnel on first down:

2012: 30.2%

2012 (in Kaepernick's regular season starts): 34.4%

2013: 40.1%

2013 (tossing out three games Vernon missed some/all due to injury, SEA, IND, CAR): 47.6%

Success using 22 personnel on first down (gain of 3 yards or more):

2012 (in Kaepernick's starts): 60.3%

2013: 44.7%

Player: "So, coach, our 22 package hasn't been that effective; what should we do about that?" Roman: "Run it even more!"

Whelp. For what has traditionally been one of the major foundations of the offense for the last couple of years, the 22 package has been pretty unsuccessful. This is disconcerting, and likely goes a long way in explaining why the offense has been a sputtering ball of sputter. So, I am proposing a question for discussion: why? Why has the 22 package been so ineffective in contrast to last year? Likely, it is a combination of quite a few things. I can think of a few explanations almost immediately - some of which have to do with Colin Kaepernick's struggles; some don't. But, I'm interested in what the groupthink thinks.

I'll offer one final thought on this. What if Kaepernick is struggling to adapt to defenses because his coaches have a hard time adapting as well? This increased use of the 22 personnel, even though it has been disappointing, seems to indicate that the coaching staff is uninterested in adapting its play calling (or maybe Colin just loves to audible into the 22 package if he has the personnel on the field).

But, the more I think about this personnel unit as partially the by-product of a stubborn offensive coaching staff, the more it makes sense. Sure, our WR corps is basically non-existent. It's perfectly understandable that we wouldn't run out with a five wide formation every down. I get that.

We do, however, have a pretty kickin' RB corps. We not run a few plays with Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, and LaMichael James all in the backfield? Of course, this isn't our offensive style. But, all three have proven their merits as pass catchers out of the backfield. Let's start exploiting some mismatches this would create. Maybe it would even allow us to run a screen pass to a RB. I hear those are entirely legal and that other teams aren't afraid to use them to counter heavy blitz formations from eight man fronts. Imagine that...

So, what do you think? What has happened to our 22 personnel? And why do we keep running it out there unsuccessfully?

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