There has been some chatter recently about undrafted rookie Dezman Moses and the eyebrow-raising attention he has received from fellow defensive players. Though yet to put on “the pads,” the Packers linebacker has created quite a stir among fans, who have been desperately waiting for some good news when it comes to the team’s defensive front. One tangent to this story, however, is what it could mean for the “return” of the so-called “Psycho” package.
For those not in the know, the Psycho is a nickel package employed by Dom Capers in Green Bay’s defensive scheme. It is a 1-5-5 formation, meaning there are one defensive lineman, five linebackers, and five defensive backs on the field. The idea is to create confusion among the quarterback, the offensive line, and any backs responsible for picking up the blitz.
By overloading the line and creating some pre-snap movement, the defense makes it hard for the offense to set their protections. It also gives the opposing coaches something extra to plan for during the week.
(This blog post at Blitzology does a nice job of highlighting the pass rushing flexibility of the Packers’ nickel packages, including the Psycho.)
Dom Capers’ use of the Psycho package dates back to his days with the Jacksonville Jaguars (1999-2000), but he first unveiled it with the Green Bay Packers in 2009. They had immediate success against the Chicago Bears that December, creating chaos for Jay Cutler and keeping their offense off-balance. Of course, just like any play, the more it’s used, the less effective it becomes.
“The more you do it, the more people start to identify — they see who you’re rushing and who you’re dropping,” Capers said in 2010. “You have to have the ability to change those things up.”
Which brings us back to our point . . . Could a rise in linebacker talent mean a return to fame for Green Bay’s Psycho defense?
To be clear, the Psycho package didn’t actually go away at all, as the Packers did use it last year. In going from their base 2-4-5 nickel set, it really only means replacing one of the lineman with a linebacker. Last season, inside linebacker D.J. Smith was the extra player, while Jarius Wynn became their lone defensive lineman.
But it lacked the punch of previous years.
One reason could be that their corps group of players in that package was gone. Brandon Chillar, who was often the fifth LB to be added, had been released in July, along with long-term starter Nick Barnett. Combine that with the overall weak play of the linebackers in 2011, and it’s not hard to see the problems.
Of course, one other big cog was missing: Cullen Jenkins. He was perhaps the keystone of the package, playing the role of what Capers referred to as a “big linebacker.” The Psycho package requires a mobile lineman, one who can move quickly and create a push without having to have his hand down. As noted earlier, Wynn filled this spot in 2011 – an obvious downgrade.
So if Dezman Moses turns out to be as good as he’s being reported to be, then we could possibly see a resurgence of the Psycho. Add to that DE Jerel Worthy – who is similar in size to Jenkins – and the chances could spike even higher.
Just imagine . . . Worthy, Matthews, Perry, Bishop, Smith, and Moses. These six players could provide the flexibility and dynamic playmaking ability that is required for the Psycho package to work. Capers wouldn’t have to blitz the same grouping of guys each time, especially if the linebackers can all prove their worth in pass defense.
And just to bump it up one more notch, the presence of Charles Woodson or even Jarrett Bush on the possible corner blitz could spell even more options. There’s also the added side effect of giving a bit of a break to the overworked B.J. Raji and the aging Ryan Pickett.
The usual disclaimer still applies. Until we get to training camp and the pads come on, this continues to be one of our many offseason pipe dreams. Still, it remains a very real possibility, and it’s worth keeping an eye on. With all of the talent cropping up on the Packers defense, Dom Capers will surely find an interesting and effective way to use it. And if the past is any indication, the Psycho package could easily be a part of that.