The NFL has been called a "copy-cat" league, due to the fact that if one team tries something new and succeeds, another team is sure to follow.
This description couldn't have described the 2008 NFL season any clearer. 2008 became known as the year of the Wildcat—the Wildcat offense, that is, a tricky offensive package made for confusing the defense and giving the offense an advantage.
It basically sets up mismatches in favor of the offense, giving them a better chance at scoring and defensive coordinators and players alike a major headache.
In this offensive package, anything can happen, whether it's the running back taking the direct snap and running with it or passing it. The quarterback may line up as a wide receiver, or a wide receiver may line up as a running back or quarterback.
It simply creates a lot of confusion for the defense when trying to stop a offense.
No team did it better than the Miami Dolphins.
A team that finished 1-15 in 2007 and started '08 with two straight losses, new head coach Tony Sparano was in need of something new, and quick, if his team was to survive in the tough AFC East.
"We've got to think of something", were the words of Miami Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano after an 0-2 start and their next game against division opponent the New England Patriots.
So, Sparano and his quarterbacks coach, David Lee, came up with a new idea.
Lee, who was at one time the offensive coordinator for the University of Arkansas, was taught a new but odd offensive scheme known at Arkansas as "The Wild Hog".
Sparano, Lee, and the Miami Dolphins decided to use this offense on the road, against the heavily favorited New England at Foxboro Stadium.
The result was a stunning 38-13 blow out in favor of the Miami Dolphins, as Bill Belichick and his staff had no clue on how to stop this style of football.
As for the Miami Dolphins, they won 10 of their next 13 games and finished winning the AFC East division.
From that game, NFL teams were hookedm as no one had ever seen a offensive formation like that. Soon, many teams were off to try and produce the same success as the Dolphins.
Teams who tried some Wildcat play styles included the Buffalo Bills, the Kansas City Chiefs, the St. Louis Rams, the Cleavland Browns, the Chicago Bears, the Carolina Panthers, the New York Giants, and even the New England Patriots tried it against their biggest rival, the Indianapolis Colts.
So, what is to be expected for 2009?
Same thing, but even more use of the crazy formation.
The Minnesota Vikings may even try and put some Wildcat formations into their playbook. In the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft, the Vikings took University of Florida wide receiver Percy Harvin, ignoring off-the-field character issues and injury concerns, as well as failing a drug test at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Harvin is a dynamic and explosive player who has the ability to score on any play and the Vikings' perfect fit to run a Wildcat offense of their own. Harvin was able to score both as a receiver and as a running back at Florida.
In his three-year career at Florida, Percy Harvin amassed 1,929 receiving yards and 1,852 rushing yards, not to mention the explosive dual-threat receiver found the end-zone 32 times.
The Minnesota Vikings' head coach Brad Childress has already planned who he will use his newest offensive toy, admitting the different things you can do with a player like Harvin.
The Vikings, more than likely, will find a way to line up Percy Harvin next to the best running back in the NFL, Adrian Peterson, to try and confuse the defense.
Also, expect Harvin to line up across from Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Bernard Berrian to give the Vikings a more explosive deep threat and deadly passing game. Chances will be good that Percy Harvin or Berrian will get loose and open up the passing game for the Vikings quarterback, who ever it may be.
This will also ease the work off Peterson, who is used to seeing defenses stack the box with eight men at times to try and slow him down.
Key word: TRY
Defenses will now have to worry about Berrian and Harvin stretching the field, causing them to put less in the box and giving Adrian Peterson better chances of bursting through the hole and finding open field, as well as the end-zone.
There is no doubt that Percy Harvin can be a great wide receiver in the NFL, but he brings so many new treats to a Vikings offense that was 12th in the league in scoring in 2008.
As much as the Vikings have improved, they would like to see that number get higher in 2009.
They may have found the right guy for the job with a talented Percy Harvin, who is explosive on the field and able to score at anytime in the game. The Minnesota Vikings have never used the Wildcat offense in it's rich franchise history, something they are excited to see change.
Expect Percy Harvin to be used as a wide reciever, a quarterback, a running back and a decoy with the odd Wildcat formations. This will help the offense confuse defensive coordinators and their players trying to read the offense on the field.
However, unlike the Miami Dolphins who have created a new era in football, the Minnesota Vikings wont make the Wildcat its key offensive game, but rather on the run game behind the legs of star running back Adrian Peterson.
The passing game will be used a bit more to mix up the defense and ease the work load for Peterson.
With the help of deep-threat receiver Bernard Berrian and great slot receivers Sidney Rice and Bobby Wade opening the middle of the field, the Vikings should have better success moving the chains.
The biggest upside of adding Wildcat packages to an already powerful offensive playbook will be the fact that Childress wont have to use them if he doesn't want to.
The real work will be made for the opposing team and its defensive coaches, who will have to take extra time during the week to figure out ways to defend the Wildcat as well as your basic run and pass plays.
Simply creating more work during the week for the opposing team can really pay off come game time.
Whether the Vikings use the Wildcat offense in their playbook or how they will use it this season remains to be seen. Now that they have one of the most talented players to run it, there is no doubt that they will definitely give it a look.
So how much Wildcat will we see? Will the Vikings be successful? Let Me know what ya think!
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