June 6, 2009
Dolphins coach Tony Sparano is unwavering in his statement that rookie Pat White is in camp strictly as a quarterback. That’s fine.
Rookies – especially those who play quarterback—need time to get their NFL bearings. And you know a Bill Parcells grad isn’t inclined to give away missile codes.
But you can sense the wheels turning in the map room somewhere.
White and Chad Pennington breaking the huddle together. White and Ronnie Brown lined up in a twin-backs set. How about White, Pennington and Brown in the same backfield?
In the time it took the Dolphins to send White’s name to the draft podium, the options grew exponentially.
If the Dolphins weren’t envisioning another gear in the Wildcat package, they were in good shape with Chad Henne as the rising backup. Certainly they wouldn’t have spent a second-round pick on another quarterback.
For now, though, Sparano plays it straight.
“Pat White is here to be a quarterback right now,” the coach told reporters as offseason team drills began. “I’ve got a guy [Brown] that carried the ball pretty well in the Wildcat. Until I see something different out here, he’s a quarterback.”
White has struggled with accuracy in Miami’s first two blocks of minicamps, but that’s not unusual for someone adjusting to a new playbook.
For all the attention given to his running skills—White’s 6,049 rushing yards are the NCAA record for a quarterback—fewer notice that he completed 64.8 percent of his passes at the trigger of West Virginia’s spread offense.
White even threw for 332 yards and three TDs in the Mountaineers’ bowl win over North Carolina, in what looked to be an attempt to showcase his arm. Weeks later, he earned MVP honors in the Senior Bowl.
Though conventional wisdom always seemed to peg White for a receiver job in the NFL, none of the 25 teams who attended his predraft throwing audition asked to see him at wideout.
But that doesn’t mean White couldn’t move out there for a few snaps. Observers learned that at one of the Dolphins’ open sessions, when White shifted out to the slot as Brown ran the Wildcat.
If nothing else, White provides Wildcat insurance. If Brown had gotten hurt last season, the Wildcat likely would have gone down with him. Not so with White on board.
Moreover, the Wildcat options multiply with a third snap-taker in the mix—a Wild-Wildcat, if you will.
Picture the Dolphins lining up in an I-formation set—Pennington behind center, Brown in the fullback spot and White at tailback. Then begin shifting people out.
Or put White and Ricky Williams in an offset I, Brown split just outside the tackle box and then motion Pennington out from behind center. Another wrinkle might switch White and Brown, leaving foes guessing whether White might shift inside for the snap.
You can be sure defensive coordinators will be operating on even less sleep.