The Miami Dolphins are 0-3.
Starting quarterback Chad Pennington has a dislocated throwing shoulder. The team is averaging an anemic 14 points per game. And yet, one of the team's best play-makers languishes on the sidelines, third-string quarterback Pat White.
True, White is a rookie and did not play in a pro-style system at West Virginia. True, he is smallish by NFL quarterback standards. True, he does not have an overpowering arm.
But here is what is also true: He is among the fastest players on the Dolphins. He is an accurate passer. He is a smart player. And he ran a system at West Virginia that looks like it's the only hope for a moribund Dolphins' offense.
Pennington is a game-managing quarterback. He is accurate, heady and steady. But he is immobile and cannot throw the home-run ball.
Backup Chad Henne has the big arm, but is even less mobile and has little experience.
That leaves White.
The Dolphins' best player on offense is clearly running back Ronnie Brown, who often runs the Wildcat offense, taking a direct snap and running with it; while carrying just the whiff of a threat of passing it.
It would be wrong to call wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. a bust, but he certainly has not lived up to his high draft status. He is the only receiver the Dolphins have who is a deep threat, thanks to his speed, but that hardly matters when he can't hold onto the ball. He could be a play-maker, but he is working his way out of that status each week with each dropped pass.
That leaves only White as an effectively explosive player; a running quarterback who is a threat to score a touchdown each time he gets the ball; and a passing quarterback who completed more than 60 percent of his passes in college.
The Dolphins have no offense besides Brown running with the ball. Head coach Tony Sparano must find a way to get his two best play-makers- Brown and White- on the field at the same time.
The obvious answer: the spread offense.
As others have correctly noted, White does not run the Wildcat; did not in college and is not meant to at Miami. He runs the spread offense. His version is the zone-read-spread-option.
Lined up in the shotgun with a running back at his side (Steve Slaton and Noel Devine at West Virginia; Brown at Miami), White takes the snap, reads the defensive end, and either hands the ball to the running back or keeps it himself; or he runs a pass play.
The advantage of the Wildcat is that it gives the running back, who takes the direct snap, one more blocker. The advantage of the zone-read-spread-option is that the defense does not typically assign a player to the quarterback. This leaves White on his own with the ball. And, as we saw in college, that spelled trouble for West Virginia opponents.
The Dolphins can either hope that Pennington gets healthy for Sunday's game, or substitute another immobile quarterback, who though he has a big arm, has no serious down-field threats, and expect to post another 14 points or so.
Or, they can put White behind center, on the same field with Brown, and watch what happens.
At 0-3, in the same division with the New England Patriots and the suddenly excellent New York Jets, the Dolphins are in little danger of challenging for the division title. This is a chance to turn a disastrous season into a salvageable, entertaining one.
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