Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Dolphins Fall Behind Wildcat Revolution

October 6, 2010

No longer can we call Miami the home of the Wildcat formation.

Where once the Miami Dolphins innovated the league with their implementation of the Wildcat, now they find themselves trailing behind the league's adopters of their own creation. Two seasons ago Miami unleashed their direct-snap formation at New England, sending the Patriots into a frenzy and the league into confusion. Today, the Dolphins run the same formation with little success against any opponent.

But other teams are finding effective ways to use the formation to their advantage, while Miami lags behind. Peek over at the New York Jets and you'll find Brad Smith running a majority of their Wildcat plays. Travel a bit west and the Cleveland Browns have Joshua Cribbs taking direct snaps on occasion. And a handful of other teams across the league also dial up their own rendition of the Wildcat.

So, what's the difference between the teams who are benefiting from Wildcat success and those who aren't (like Miami)? Simple: The player taking the snaps.

As previously noted, Smith and Cribbs are a few of the notable athletes spearheading the Wildcat for their respective teams - and with general effectiveness. The reason being because these players present both a legitimate running and passing threat to opposing defenses. Both Smith and Cribbs played quarterback in their college careers and have enough skill to drop a pass on target to receivers. On the contrary, teams like Miami that utilize one-dimensional players for their direct snaps only pose a ground threat, which allows defenses to anticipate the play with greater ease.

It's now evident why the Dolphins attempted the "Pat White Experiment." Their goal was to diversify their options from the Wildcat package with a shifty speedster that possessed passing skills. Unfortunately, White's physical build and lack of development led to his departure from Miami - ending the experiment after just one season.

It's been three seasons since the inception of the Wildcat and defenses have improved their preparations against the package. This is why the Dolphins' current version of it has continuously been stunted by opponents, placing the "gimmick" set on life support.

Whether Miami chooses to continue their use of the Wildcat or rip it clean off their playbook is unknown. What is known is that the reemergence of the package will only come if diversify their snap takers. That could mean switching out Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams for other options like Tyler Thigpen.

Nevertheless, we are witnessing a new era of the Wildcat in the NFL as the Dolphins' no longer are the guru's of their own mastery.

Coach Tony Sparano will have two full weeks to think extensively about the future of the 'Cat in Miami before the team's week six return versus the Green Bay Packers.

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