White To Add Wrinkles To Wildcat

Scott ClairContributor IMay 29, 2009

The Dolphins stood pat this offseason in adding to its offense through free agency. So expect to see Miami’s usual suspects - Chad Pennington, Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, Ted Ginn, Jr. and Anthony Fasano - coming this fall to a stadium near you.

Also expect to see them pull the Wildcat offense from its bag of tricks a little more often than the nine or so plays a game Miami employed it in 2009. In fact, expect to see it continue to transform from gadgetry to a standard part of the Dolphins’ playbook.

When Miami unveiled the Wildcat against the Patriots in the third game of the season last year, it was met with equal parts curiosity and skepticism. Though many teams soon instituted versions of it in their own playbooks, NFL Network commentator Warren Sapp scoffed at the Wildcat, calling it “disrespectful.” He was not alone.

What it actually proved to be for Miami was effective. The Dolphins averaged more than seven yards each time they lined up in the Wildcat.

Under the guidance of offensive coordinator Dan Henning and quarterbacks coach David Lee, who used the Wildcat to great effect while at Arkansas with Darren McFadden and Felix Jones in the backfield, Miami was able to compensate for a less-than-stellar passing attack by confusing defenses.

This season will see the emerging of the Wildcat 2.0. Critical to the formation’s development was the drafting of West Virginia quarterback Pat White in the second round.

Miami had more pressing needs at wide receiver and nose tackle than it did at quarterback when it came time to make its second round selection. In fact, with the veteran Pennington and promising Chad Henne already in the fold, Miami had no need at all for a quarterback in the draft.

If anything, the Dolphins would seemingly have best been served by signing an experienced quarterback in free agency as insurance if Pennington were to suffer an injury and Henne proved too green to assume the reigns.

Instead, Miami went for White, the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher for a quarterback.

Before training camp has even started, there’s already speculation that White could leapfrog Henne and start the season as Miami’s No. 2. Considering White’s particular talents, it’s not a ridiculous notion.

He would be more effective coming in for a few plays each game as part of a Wildcat package. And because NFL’s rules stipulate that if a No. 3 quarterback plays before the fourth quarter, the first two quarterbacks on the depth chart are ineligible for the rest of the game.

It’s obvious Miami’s coaching staff sees White’s skill set adding a delicious dimension to the Wildcat. With Lee as his position coach and the formation’s most creative practitioner, White should pick up the Wildcat’s nuances quickly.

Actually, it’s not a hard offense to grasp. Despite all its supposed trickery, the Wildcat, as employed last season, has only four options, with all of them looking the same. The presence of White, with his passing and running abilities, could add a few new wrinkles.

When the Dolphins ran the Wildcat last season, Brown lined up at quarterback in the shotgun with Williams in the slot to the left. Pennington usually lined up as a receiver.

Generally, one of four things happened, Brown kept the ball and went up the middle on a halfback dive, or they faked the dive and went with a sweep, with Williams in motion to the right crossing in front of Brown for the handoff.

There were also two play action pass options, one a seam and the other a half back pass with Brown throwing to a tight end. Picture White lined up at quarterback and Brown in the slot or at receiver. The defense, though familiar with the options, really wouldn’t know which one to defend.

And with White, who completed 65 percent of his passes in college, at quarterback and more dangerous at throwing downfield than Brown, that adds at least a fifth option and another potential mismatch the Dolphins could exploit.

White could also line up as a receiver and, being of far greater concern than Pennington at that position, could create an advantageous millisecond of uncertainty in the defense.

"This will take our team to another level," wide receiver Davone Bess was quoted as saying about White's  involvement in the Wildcat

No doubt, opposing defenses can expect to see more of the Wildcat formation from the Dolphins this season. But with White in the mix, it’ll be harder for them to expect what they’ll see once the ball is snapped.