Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Miami Nice: Year Two of the Wildcat

- 1. Direct snap to running back. 2. ??? 3. Profit! -

Current Standing: 7-2, 2nd Overall

Watched the Pats-Dolphins game Sunday and was not disappointed. The Pats look solid now that Brady has his feet under him, but they have two huge challenges, playing the undefeated Colts and Saints before the end of November. But honestly, I'd rather talk about the Dolphins.

The Dolphins' offense is fun to watch and a chore to defend against, because Miami uses the Wildcat formation* on a large number of their snaps. After the formation debuted against the Patriots last September, Miami rode their new offense to an 11-5 record and their first playoff appearance since 2001. This year, despite some tough losses, Miami is fourth in the league in rushing and is a pundit favorite to surprise people in the second half of the season, taking advantage of a weak schedule in the second half.

The only problem is that the Dolphins need a passing game. After Chad Pennington was lost to injury, rookie Chad "blame it on the" Henne started taking snaps when the Wildcat was called off. And he's been respectable in his first year few starts; his 77.8 QB rating through six games is just above where Pennington's was before his injury. Analysts were excited about Henne before the season started, praising his arm and predicting success for the Dolphins' speedy receivers once they had a quarterback who could get them the ball on a deep route.**

But there is another option for coach Tony Sparano: Pat White. The former Mountaineer was selected by the Dolphins in this year's NFL draft, and as such probably could stand some more seasoning first. But when White came into the Patriots game Sunday, I paid attention. When White is in the game, the Dolphins can run their typical Wildcat option (with either White or Ronnie Brown taking the carry), or they can call more conventional passes or runs. White is familiar with this style of offense already, as it's similar to what he used to great success at West Virginia with Steve Slaton, and would have the advantage of speed over using Henne in this role.

Technically, Ted tells me, using White and Brown in the same backfield isn't really the "Wildcat" formation, it's a shotgun option. And that's fine, even if the name's not as fun. But the important thing is, replacing the aging Ricky Williams with a professional quarterback -- even one with modest throwing ability -- opens up the vertical passing game and could prevent defenses from stacking eight in the box to protect against the run. It's the type of formation that could work well for other mobile quarterbacks: Vince Young and Chris Johnson, for instance, would seem to be prime candidates for this in Tennessee. It still doesn't eliminate the problem of needing receivers who can catch, but that's another issue.

You don't care, do you. Okay, fine. Here's something shiny.

*-For those unfamiliar to the term, it involves snapping the ball to a running back as opposed to their quarterback.
**-Of course, this implies the receivers can catch the ball. I'm looking at you, Ted Ginn, Jr.

1 comment:

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