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Things to Think about for 2014: Personnel Packages

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Things to Think about for 2014: Personnel Packages

At this point in the offseason, there is a lot of free time to discuss the current roster and what we can expect leading up to the season (even though it is still very early).

In terms of scheme and personnel, there are three fascinating things to think about. First, will Mike McCarthy employ the five wide receiver personnel package more? Second, will Dom Capers use the “Psycho” package more? And third, will Capers use the “Dollar” package more?

Every Packers fan remembers the 2010 season and the great receiving corps of Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, and James Jones. That season, especially since Jermichael Finley was injured for the majority of it, McCarthy liked to occasionally send out a five wide receiver personnel package that he calls the “Big 5." This was technically “00 personnel” (zero running backs, zero tight ends, five wide receivers), and it consisted of Driver, Jennings, Nelson, Jones, and Brett Swain.

Here is a 3x2 formation with Jones, Jennings, and Driver to the left and Swain and Nelson to the right at Atlanta in the 2010 divisional round (all five receivers are circled in blue):

Here is the same personnel grouping at New England in 2010. Here, they lined up in a “Quads Bunch” formation (four receivers to one side lined up in a bunch) with Driver, Jennings, Nelson, and Jones lined up together on the left and Swain to the right:

Going into this season, the Packers are in a situation where they have a myriad of wide receivers, but not very many big-play tight ends. McCarthy likes to use “11 personnel” (one running back, one tight end, three wide receivers), and he will still employ that very often. However, with Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Jarrett Boykin, Myles White, Davante Adams, Jared Abbrederis, and Jeff Janis (just to name a few), McCarthy will have plenty of receivers to work with. A “Big 5” package consisting of Nelson, Cobb, Boykin, Adams, and Abbrederis, for example, would look very intriguing.

Next, remember when Dom Capers used to employ the “Psycho” package much more? This is technically a 1-5-5 nickel package (one down lineman, five linebackers, five defensive backs), and it is designed to create confusion for the offensive line in long-yardage situations. Ted Thompson has not addressed the inside linebacker position this offseason, but this package could still be very useful with the personnel the Packers have now. Here are a couple of pictures of the "Psycho" package from the 2009 game at Pittsburgh and the 2010 game versus Buffalo:

In terms of the personnel for the "Psycho" package, Capers could use many different combinations. An example of what he could do is this: Using Mike Daniels as the one down lineman, and Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, Nick Perry, A.J. Hawk, and Carl Bradford as the linebackers. After watching some tape on Bradford, Arizona State did put him at inside linebacker in a couple of packages, and he looked like a good blitzer.

The secondary would be the same as the normal 2-4-5 nickel package (Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Casey Hayward, Micah Hyde or Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, and Morgan Burnett). The "Psycho" package is a great way to keep offenses off balance, and maybe we will see Dom use it much more this season.

The final topic pertains to how much Capers will use what he calls his “Dollar” package. This is a seven defensive back package. Capers has used this some in this past. Now that Casey Hayward is healthy, Capers has a very talented secondary to work with. He could employ the Dollar package more this season against teams like the Lions.

The advantage of this package is that there are generally no blatant mismatches no matter what personnel or formation the offense presents. Here is a picture of the Dollar package from the 2012 game versus the Saints (the seven defensive backs are circled in blue):

On that particular play, Capers used two down linemen, two (outside) linebackers, and seven defensive backs (2-2-7).

A specific scenario when the Dollar package would have been useful was during the 2013 game at Detroit. Packers fans: Remember the play when Reggie Bush beat A.J. Hawk down the sideline for a 32-yard reception?

Well, on that particular play, the Packers were playing their dime defense (two down linemen, three linebackers, six defensive backs). You would think that the Packers would match up well across the board.

However, on the play, Dom Capers called Cover 1 to double (bracket) Calvin Johnson with Sam Shields and Morgan Burnett. This meant that everyone else was playing man (one-on-one) coverage with M.D. Jennings as the deep, single-high safety. So, once Bush motioned out of the backfield and lined up wide, Hawk had to follow and cover him with no help (depicted by the red figure-eight):

This was a brilliant job by the Lions. Even though the Packers had six defensive backs on the field, the Lions found a way to create a mismatch. By the design of the defensive play call, Hawk had to cover Bush. You cannot put all the blame on Capers, but if he would have employed the "Dollar" package in this situation, a defensive back would have covered Bush instead.  

So, who would be playing in this package? As of right now, it would likely be Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Casey Hayward, Micah Hyde, Davon House, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, and Morgan Burnett. If Dom utilizes this, offenses will have a tough time finding open receivers.

With three months left before the season starts, there are many scenarios that could occur between now and then. Nevertheless, it is still entertaining to discuss all of the possibilities surrounding the Packers. Everything written above serves as something to think about as we persevere through this current lull in the NFL offseason.

Thanks for reading, Packers fans. Follow me on Twitter at @RobertOlson92 for daily analysis on the Packers.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (5) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Kid Culi's picture

As far as the Psycho package, I think I would prefer to see Datone Jones standing up than Bradford. I actually thought Datone looked really good in the SF playoff game when he was forced to play OLB. Now he might be hopeless in coverage, but so are to an extent Perry and probably Peppers. Mike Neal is another possibility.

It will be interesting to see if there's any packages where Bradford can get on the field given this sudden surplus of pass rushers (we hope)....

Clay Zombo's picture

I wonder how they plan to incorporate the new Elephant end position and who all fits that mold in the coaching staff's eyes.

I happen to think it will be hard to keep Carl Bradford off the field by or before midseason. I can tell you already that he's probably our best OLB in space not named Clay Matthews. Id send him out into the flat to cover a RB before id send Neal, Perry or even Peppers for that matter.

At 6'1 250 lbs he is a little short for the pass rush and light for the run stuffing aspects of OLB( I think he will be good at both though) but its really an advantage for him to be able to break down in space and make a tackle.

So I see him being used more than you think even though hes a rookie along with the abundance of OLBs now on the team.

They could give him 2-3 different packages to know thoroughly while he chips away at learning the rest of the defense over the course of the season. Then play him only in those packages until they feel comfortable expanding his role.

L's picture

I really think if Bradford is going to leave his mark this year on the team it'll have to be on Special Teams unless injuries provide an opportunity or force him into seeing game action. Just my thought, but I could be proved wrong if he appears unstoppable off the edge during training camp and preseason.

lucky953's picture

I think your main point is spot on: the "scheme" will be tailored to the talents and capabilities of the personnel at the coaching staff's disposal. McMarthy has made that pretty clear. They have a gazillion schemes but they're pretty useless if you don't have the players to run them. You've identified DB as a strong personnel group, which I agree with and so the "Dollar" package looks likely, as does the "psycho", given the number of hybrid DL/OLB players involved. Wide receiver is a little less convincing, given the lack of experience, but could figure in more and more as the season progresses. The one group you didn't address was the Running Backs, where the Packers seem to have more depth of talent than we've seen around here in a long time. I wouldn't be surprised to see some new personnel groupings utilizing multiple back formations. This may partially be what McMarthy said about this group: "my depth chart doesn't look anything like yours". Thanks for the article.

Stroh's picture

Not interested in any of these gimmick plays.

McCarthy went to the 5 wide package due to lack of a running game and the poor OL play. The advantage is that it spreads the field and allows the QB, if he's good/smart enough, to identify the pass rushers and any mismatches. Right now, we have an OL that is better at its job, a great running game and 3 WR that he trusts. Don't give me the plethora of WR stuff. They have Nelson, Cobb and Boykin they can really trust, everyone else is an unknown and really only Adams would qualify as a good potential starter after that. There is NO REASON whatsoever why McCarthy would go back to it. I expect we'll see plenty of 3 WR, 1 RB and 1 TE or maybe 4 WR 1 RB looks, but no way the 5 wides makes the field.

The psycho MIGHT get a play a game at most. Again its a gimmick. The Packers now have plenty of DL that can create pressure. In '10 they really only had Jenkins. This year they can send Daniels, Jones, Peppers, Neal and Perry to play DL type positions and get pressure. The psycho isn't worth it.

The dollar w/ 7 DB and the depth of the secondary would be something that could be more useful. Especially in long yardage situations. Hyde and C-D are both strong tacklers that could be moved closer to the LOS, along w/ Richardson and serve as pseudo LB.

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