I am often hit with this question as the NFL continues to figure out if the famed wildcat formation is a fad that worked in 2008 for the Dolphins or now a fixture in the league. Innovation wise, you have to hand it to the Birds and the rest of the NFL for trying to find ways to use the wildcat in maximizing the athleticism of players like WR DeSean Jackson and QB Michael Vick.
But is the formation really making a difference in the Eagles playbook? So far the Eagles have lined up in the wildcat 30 times in their first three games producing 143 yards in offense—24 rushes for 121 yards and 22 passing yards on 2 of 6 attempts.
Every team in the NFL now spends time each practice working specifically on stopping the wildcat. The Eagles ran out of the formation 11 times against the Chiefs for a total of 33 yards with over 390 yards coming out of other offensive sets.
A major factor in stopping the wildcat is familiarity based around the fact that unless the guy taking the snap can throw, then “sellout” on stopping the run—the Ravens used this attack in shutting down the wildcat in their 2008 playoff win over the Dolphins.
The Chiefs admitted that before the Eagles game that they spent time practicing for and talking about the wildcat and Vick’s part in it, so they wouldn’t be caught off guard. “We prepared for everything, pretty much,” Chiefs nose tackle Tank Tyler said of facing the wildcat.
Overall I have to agree with ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski that the Wildcat is fun, but in the end the NFL is a passing league first. Jaws said, “I love the Wildcat. It’s great. I’m glad Dolphins QB Coach (David) Lee is up there working all the plays. Maybe he can give them to the college coaches, because that’s where they work.
At the NFL level you must have a quarterback that plays from the pocket.” For now I think the Eagles’ offense will continue wildcatting it, especially in trying to get Vick on the field—maybe five or fewer “Wildcat” snaps a game.
But the key person in deciding to keep to the wildcat for the Eagles is not offensive coordinator Marty Mornhingweg, it is quarterback Donovan McNabb. The Eagles unquestioned starter will have to buy into the wildcat formation being for the betterment of the team, which I believe could happen as long as the streaky passer doesn’t have his rhythm is thrown off.