Two tight end formations open up Chiefs playbook

Posted Aug 4, 2012

Kevin Boss and Tony Moeaki pair to increase offensive personnel options

St. Joseph, Mo. – They call it “12” personnel in the football world. It simply means the offense is lining up with one running back and two tight ends, but it’s taking the NFL by storm.

With versatile tight ends, “12” personnel is a bear for defenses to counter and it’s no longer just for running the football. Everyone in a copy-cat league wants its own version of New England’s tight end tandem.

It’s all about versatility. If the tight ends can split outside into open or empty formations, the defense must pick its poison. Face mismatches against base personnel in the passing game or bring in sub-package personnel and leave your defense susceptible to the run.

“From a defensive standpoint, having to defend all of those different looks with one personnel group makes it tough, so you have to decide, do you want to play your regular defense versus those guys or do you want to play your sub defense versus that group,” Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel explained.

“That makes it tough because they can do whatever they want. If you put your regular defense out there, they’ll probably throw it a little bit more. If you put your sub out there, they’ll probably run it a little bit more. That’s the dilemma that you face.”

And that’s the dilemma the Chiefs are hoping to create with Kevin Boss and Tony Moeaki this season.

“It was a big priority,” Crennel said of adding a flexible second tight end this offseason. “As it turned out, Boss becoming available was a surprise and I think that he will be very beneficial to us. Tony coming back is good, and so having that combination can pose a lot of problems for a defense.”

Boss and Moeaki aren’t Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, but they don’t have to be. Not with the run game the Chiefs hope to employ.

New Chiefs offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has been using training camp to explore all of his options with Boss and Moeaki on the field at the same time. Matt Cassel took advantage of a mismatch against base defensive personnel earlier this week when he hit Boss for a 20-yard touchdown against man-to-man coverage from outside linebacker Justin Houston.

Boss is known as the better blocker and Moeaki as the more talented receiver, but both have shown enough balance to give Kansas City the necessary options.

“We’re helping each other out, seeing different things, watching each other when the other one is out there, then coming back and talking about what we’re seeing, what we would do differently, and what the defense is doing,” Boss said. “So that’s really helpful as we learn the offense together and get out there to execute it.”

It’s only a week into training camp and there’s already excitement surrounding the Chiefs new pairing at tight end. It’s arguable that the Chiefs have never had a tight end duo quite like this.

Tony Gonzalez and Jason Dunn were the perfect complement to each other, but even their pairing was limited. Gonzalez was the whole package – a one-man mismatch machine and a solid blocker.  Dunn was essentially a sixth offensive lineman that helped the Chiefs run game reach new heights.

It’s different with Boss and Moeaki. Neither catches like Gonzalez or blocks like Dunn, but they increase the Chiefs offensive personnel options twofold.

“I think we’re all excited about the potential that this offense has,” said Boss. “Just getting some guys healthy and back who weren’t here last year and bringing new guys in like Peyton Hillis and Eric Winston. It’s really exciting.”

The evolution of “12” personnel isn’t just about stretching the field with receiving tight ends. It’s about finding mismatches for your other play-makers. It’s about forcing defenses to make a choice.

With players like Jamaal Charles, Peyton Hillis, Dexter McCluster, Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston and Jonathan Baldwin, it’s obvious why the Chiefs placed an emphasis on finding a second tight end like Boss this offseason.

“At this point in my career, I just want to win,” said Boss. “That’s one of the reasons I came here. I saw the potential that this team has – a lot of young talent. I just want to get out there and win football games, get back in the playoffs, and make a push for the Super Bowl.”