At first glance, the wildcat formation is relatively simple. An unbalanced offensive line, a presnap motion, and a half back receiving the snap. It's a running formation, but the running back has the option to throw the football. Simple, but very deadly for the Dolphins.
Personnel is the main reason. The Dolphins have a backfield that includes Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams; both are premier backs, can break the big run, and have good field vision. This is a necessity when running the formation, because the back has to see which way the defense commits and then runs to the open hole or to the cut back lane.
Normally as a defense, more down linemen, run blitzes, or man coverage stop the run. Each of these for the most part don't work against the wildcat.
If you put more men on the line, you're susceptible to the running back coming across the field in the presnap motion; he gets outside and you're relying on your corners to hold contain against a much bigger back.
The run blitz fails because of the ball carrier's vision out of the shotgun. As the ball is snapped to the running back, he has the luxury of seeing where the blitz will be coming from and then can cut to the open hole.
Straight up man-to-man coverage is a problem also because the Dolphins use a zone blocking scheme for their wildcat formation. Zone blocking schemes create holes and lanes against a man defense because they rely on double teams and movement, not simply on picking a guy and blocking him.
All of these create issues for a Jets defense that relies on blitzing and man coverage. Those problems were on display when they played the Dolphins in Land Shark Stadium a couple weeks ago.
The Dolphins ran the wildcat 16 times for 110 yards, getting first downs and scoring at will. It makes you wonder how the Jets will attempt to stop it this time around.
I'm sure Rex Ryan has had this game circled on his calendar since the loss and has a scheme that he built to stop the Dolphins from running wild, but I have some ways that I think will be successful against the wildcat as well.
With the wildcat, the primary function is to run the football, so the quarterback is flanked out wide. The Jets should assign the hardest hitting player on the team, in this case David Harris, to hit the quarterback, Chad Henne, as hard as he possibly can every time they run the formation.
Technically speaking, the quarterback is a blocker in the formation and can be hit, the way a fullback gets hit by a middle linebacker when trying to create a hole for a running back.
I don't know if the NFL would allow it, but I can't imagine the Dolphins sending their quarterback out there to get smacked every time they run the formation. And honestly, who passes on a free hit to the quarterback?
Seriously though, I think the Jets will have to force the issue. Take away the decision making process from the back so that he only has one running lane option. Simply overload the strong side of the formation with the defensive tackle and the defensive ends. Blitz the weak side and force the back up the middle into the linebackers.
I don't know if that will work and the easiest way to beat the Dolphins run game is to score early and score often, forcing them to pass and play catch up, but we have yet to see the Jets offense explode and it probably won't this week either.
Most importantly, this Sunday the Jets defense will have the chance to regain the identity that was clawed away from them a couple weeks ago and show the world that the wildcat can be domesticated.