The Dolphins brought a college look into the NFL on Sunday when they first used the "Wildcat" formation in their 38-13 beat down of the Patriots. Ronnie Brown's 4 rushing touchdowns was a team record, and even more importantly, a sign that the Dolphins are already improving under first year head coach Tony Sparano. But a lot of credit should really be given to David Lee, the Dolphins Quartbacks coach, who brought this system with him from his days coaching Darren McFadden at Arkansas. The question today is, what will become of the "Wildcat" formation that the Dolphins ran so successfully on Sunday?
First though, what makes the "Wildcat" formation so successful is the amount of options it creates. Defenses don't know if the running back will run, if he will option it to the other back, or if he will throw the ball. The threat is incredible when you consider that Ronnie Brown, arguably one of the most talented backs in the league, is taking the direct snaps, with a rejuvenated Ricky Williams to pitch the ball to. And as Ronnie demonstrated with his 19-yard TD pass to tight end Anthony Fasano, he can even throw the ball occasionally if he has to.
The blocking scheme to go along with the "Wildcat" is perplexing as well. At times I noticed Jake Long lining up on the right side, with only Smiley and Fasano on Center Samson Satele's left. The right side of the line then included Ndukwe, Carey, and Long.
When the Dolphins run the "Wildcat" again two weeks from now against the San Diego Chargers, the element of surprise will be gone; the Chargers will have had time to study the game film from the Dolphins victory over the Patriots. Still, the Dolphins should find success with it. Tony Sparano stated in his post-game press conference that the Dolphins have merely "scratched the surface" regarding their plans with the new formation, going so far as to say that they plan on bringing other people into it.
Personally, I would love to see Ted Ginn taking some of the direct snaps. He has some experience doing just that from his days with the Buckeyes, where they ran a similar direct snap out of the shotgun formation. Or, sticking with the college theme, they could have Ronnie Brown take the direct snap and run a fly sweep to Ginn.
I could see this happening, because Ginn mentioned after the game that he would in some of the future packages, and my gut tells me the coaches don't want Ronnie throwing deep bombs to Ginn. In a formation as tricky and as flexible as this, there are surely better ways to use Ginn's abilities.
I could also see Ernest Wilford benefitting from this formation. He's had a terrible start to the year, but he's a big body and will likely be out there when the Dolphins run this formation in the red zone. He could be a target of Ronnie Brown's because of his size and typically reliable hands. Considering that passing the ball is not Brown's strong point, Wilford could be targeted often given his size advantage over defenders.
Ricky Williams made a good point after the game when he mentioned that even if the new formation isn't as successful later, if nothing else it makes the opposing teams devote more time preparing for that than they will for their "regular" offense. This alone makes the "Wildcat" worth keeping, even if the results aren't always the same.