Packers Could Go “Psycho” With Linebacker Talent All Green Bay Packers All the Time
Dom Capers
Dom Capers might just go "Psycho" this year.

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.


Chad Toporski, a Wisconsin native and current Pittsburgh resident, is a writer for You can follow Chad on twitter at @ChadToporski


31 thoughts on “Packers Could Go “Psycho” With Linebacker Talent

  1. Great article…it keeps the juices flowing during the “dead zone”.

    Hargrove could also be a “Cullen” replacement. And I think you could add Brad Jones, Jamari Lattimore, and Terrell Manning to the list of LB’s who could contribute to the psycho.

    BTW-I live in the Chicago area. My dental hygentist who is born and raised in Chicago is a Packer fan. I asked her how could that be…turns out Dom is her uncle. She said he was in town last weekend and they didn’t talk football at all. I said “you got to be kidding me I would have talked his ear off.”

    1. Yeah, I completely agree. If Moses doesn’t pan out, there seem to be some other hopefuls that could take his place.

      That’s pretty cool about your dental hygienist. One of my best friends actually got married to girl whose uncle is THE Mike Holmgren. It’s amazing some of the connections we find as we go through life.

    2. To display your loyalty you need to have the hygienist apply green and gold inlays of the letter G on your front-teeth. And since you’re living in the Chicago area see how long you can keep said teeth.;-)

    1. I don’t even consider reports from practices in shorts without any contact. Been fooled enough…

  2. Thanks, Mr. Big!

    BTW, I clicked on the link to your website… Amazing stuff! Really like your style and philosophy. Definitely going to keep your site bookmarked and share it with friends/family.

    1. I believe improper pad level does not have a very “pawsitive” effect on the Psycho package.

      1. Pad level affects everything LOS-wise, but my take is that timing is the most crucial aspect of the psycho package. Remember Roethlisberger destroying the tempo with hard count and forcing the D to show it’s hand every time, to disastruous results.

  3. Is the Psycho package the same as the Chaos package? Or am I making that up?

  4. I do not agree. I would like to think that a lineup of Raji,Worthy,Mathews,Perry,Bishop,Smith,Woodson,Williams,Shields,Burnett, and Jennings would be better provided that these are the best eleven defensive players. The added new depth should be able to keep the starters fresh so that they “just keep coming!”

    1. Yes, that line-up is definitely a good one. But you do have to have the ability to utilize different packages for different situations. Not only does it help to create positive match-ups, but it also keeps things from getting vanilla and predictable.

      The thing about the Psycho is that it’s only meant to be used in really obvious passing situations – essentially 3rd-and-long. The idea behind replacing a DL with an LB is to create more speed and allow a more complex “fire-zone” blitz, where essentially any of your LBs can drop into coverage. Two DL would, most of the time, not be able to drop into coverage like that.

  5. They certainly have more options and the status quo will not work after last years shellacking on defense. It is too early to project Moses, remember the hype on So’to last year. Perry is not a given yet either but all the physical skills are there. Best case is Johnny Jolly is reinstated which allows Picket and Raji to trade snaps inside, Worthy is the real deal to replace Jenkins, and Moses plays opposite Mathews with Perry going inside on 3rd downs (can do this at 270 pounds) and House or Hayward replace Shields.

    1. I think what we’ve seen so far is that the *potential* defensive talent is going to allow Capers to be versatile in what he does… which is a very good thing.

  6. Mike Neal is a better overall athlete than Worthy, just not with the same get-off. Neal (if healthy) has a lot of potential up or down in the psycho package where Jenkins was so effective. They’ve already flirted with the idea of standing him up based on his athleticism.

    Most importantly, any package employing 5 DB’s needs your small personnel to tackle effectively in the open field. Even a modest improvement in that department will make any prior nickle/dime package more effective.

    1. I was actually considering mentioning Neal, but his disappointments kept me from doing so.

      1. I agree with you, and this year he either grows or he goes. I’m not saying he can be a replacement for Jenkins in general, just this package in particular COULD be a perfect fit for his aptitude as a defender.

        Training camp installs will be interesting. Who will run with the 1’s, who will run with the 2’s…..

  7. We just need to clone Matthews 3 times and we have our linebacking core. It is the only way……..

  8. Hey guys,

    Just spit-balling here, but what about Mike Daniels? He’s got just the right offensive burst, physicality and mobility to potentially be a part of the Psycho…?

    What say you all?

    1. I can’t speak to his potential in the 1-5-5, but I’ll say this:

      Mike Daniels is the most under-appreciated addition to the 2012 Packers roster at this point.

      This kid is going to be a big difference maker for the Packers.. And NOBODY is talking about him.

      Give him a full season, everyone will be talking about how they were talking about him when nobody was talking about him… 😉

      1. Mike Daniels, Mike Daniels, Mike Daniels…
        I’m covered, in the future I can say I remember mentioning his name at least 3 times.

  9. Frankly, it appears the Packers have decided to fill the roster with pass rushers, so it’s easy to imagine a large variety of “Psycho-ready” combinations. Compared to last year, when CM seemed to be the only threat, we have(on paper) Worthy, Daniels, Perry, Moses, Neal–maybe even Jolly. Combined with the improved defensive backfield, we should see a lot more disruption this year. That doesn’t guarantee better defense, but it should be fun to watch!

    1. Jolly is alot better against the run than the pass.

      The two keys here are versatility, so the call can be changed without shuffling personnel; and match-ups, so the offense can’t take advantage.

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