Tight end Daniel Fells was arguably one of the Rams' top receiving options even before a broken leg landed Laurent Robinson on injured reserve. There can be no doubt after Fells caught two touchdown passes against the Packers in Week 3.
The injury prompted the Rams to use their "Tiger" personnel grouping -- one back, two tight ends -- for 13 of 14 plays after losing Robinson. Those 13 plays gained 110 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown strike to Fells. With receiver Donnie Avery struggling, this group was arguably the Rams' best option even before Robinson's injury. The Rams used it on the play before losing Robinson. The result was another touchdown pass to Fells, this one covering 16 yards.
2009 Rams Personnel: Week 3
Before that 16-yard touchdown pass, the Rams used Tiger personnel only five times in 25 snaps against the Packers. We should expect to see much more of it against the 49ers in Week 4, partly out of necessity and partly because results are impossible to ignore. One caveat: The 49ers completely shut down the Seahawks' attempts to use the same personnel group. Seattle averaged 1 yard per rushing attempt on five carries and 1 yard per pass attempt on six passes from this grouping in Week 2.
For download: Excel file featuring full Rams personnel report from Week 3. Includes personnel tendencies by down, in red zone and goal-to-go situations.
Tiger personnel is closer to a base offense than anything most teams use on passing downs. But the Rams, lacking time to substitute while running their 2-minute offense before halftime Sunday, used it eight consecutive plays to end the half, including a third-and-10 play featuring a Kyle Boller 13-yard scramble. This personnel grouping also stands as a viable alternative to the Rams' base offense, known as "Regular" personnel and featuring two backs with one tight end. Here is how I explained the tradeoff Sept. 17:
Sticking with their base offense means pairing (Steven) Jackson with fullback Mike Karney. Jackson was thrilled when the Rams signed Karney because he knew the potential benefits in the run game. Putting Karney on the field with Jackson usually comes at the expense of second tight end Daniel Fells, however, and Fells has the athleticism to become an occasional receiving option. The Rams need all the receiving options they can get and Karney isn't going to help in that area.
Having two tight ends on the field also gives the Rams needed options in pass protection. They can use one or more tight ends to help backup right tackle Adam Goldberg, who has been subbing for rookie first-round choice Jason Smith. Goldberg committed a holding penalty during a Steven Jackson run in the first half. The penalty contributed to a fateful third-and-14 situation two plays later. The Rams, using their "Zebra" package with one back and only one tight end, left Goldberg singled up against Packers linebacker Aaron Kampman. Kampman beat Goldberg and injured quarterback Marc Bulger with a fumble-forcing sack.