Wildcat Formation: Was It Really Just a Fad?

Ramone BrownSenior Writer IJune 24, 2009

HONOLULU, HI - FEBRUARY 08: Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the AFC All-Stars Indianapolis Colts gets set as a wide receiver in a wildcat play formation against the NFC All-Stars in the 2009 NFL Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium on February 8, 2009 in Honolulu, Hawaii. The NFC defeated the AFC 30-21. (Photo by Paul Spinelli/Getty Images)

When you see this picture you start to ask alot of questions. 

Is Peyon Manning confused?  Why is he awkwardly in a WR stance split out wide?  Doesn't he know he's arguably one of the best QBs in the game, not a WR?  Does he have a childhood fantasy of playing a position other than QB?  And did he really play well enough last year to be voted into the Pro-Bowl.

To answer all your question:  Probably,  Because of the "WildCat(or WildHog) formation, not sure, maybe, and not really.

What is the "Wildhog" exactly? Well its a trick play that roughly consists of two RBs in the backfield,  at least one who can throw the ball.  Usually a QB split out wide like Manning in the picture with two real WR opposite the formation and a Tight-end as a wing in there somewhere.  The ball is snapped to a RB who thinks he's a QB usually followed by playaction with the two RBs in the backfield and the ball is either ran or thrown by one of the RBs. 

The defenses get confused,  mainly because corners can't comprehend lining up in coverage against the likes of Peyton Manning, Chad Pennington or in the Raiders case Joe Flacco.  Defensive Coordinators throw fits and yards are gained.  This is then repeated sometimes more than 15 times a game.

This was used by numerous teams last year but most notably and most effectively by the Miami Dolphins.  Many people will argue:  It was just a fad, we won't see it much this year, defenses caught on towards the end of the year,  its not that effective.  But I believe otherwise and think it will be even more widespread this year.

Last Year once other teams saw how effective the Dolphins were using this formation they began to follow suit,  this year after a whole off-season to digest the formation offensive coordinators everywhere will want to try there hand at the "WildHog".  Heres a look some of the teams who can and likely will use the formation.

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The Miami Dolphins

Considered the originators of the formation at the NFL level,  they ran it most effectively and more often than any other team.  In this years draft they "reached" for a speedy QB named Pat White ideal for the formation.  I'm not claiming they will bench Pennington for White and exclusively run the"Wildcat" but expect the formation to be just as big a part of the offense if not bigger.

The Oakland Raiders

They have two young running backs well suited to run the formation: Michael Bush who was an out-standing QB in HS; and Darren Mcfadden who often ran the "WildHog" alongside Felix Jones with the Arkansas RazorBacks. Mcfadden is also capable of throwing the ball.  The Raiders ran it a few times early last year, but injuries and a coach change limited it to the beginning of the season.

The Dallas Cowboys

Their use of the Formation was also limited to the beginning of the season after a season ending injury to Former Arkansas Running-Back Felix Jones. With Felix Jones healthy expect more of the "WildHog" from the Dallas Cowboys.

The Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens coaching staff spent so much energy devising a way to stop the formation they actually decided to incorporate it in their offense.  Most notably Joe Flaccos long reception against a confused Oakland Raider defense.

The SanFrancisco 49ers

They ran it occasionally last year and with a struggling offense and uncertainty at the QB position Mike Singletary will do anything to give his offense a boost.

The San Diego Chargers

They have never ran the formation as far as I know.  Ladainian Tomlinson though aging is still the most versatile RB in the game and is no stranger to trick plays,  he was ran threw and received a touchdown in a single game. Last year the running game struggled but Phillip Rivers was able to pick up the slack.  There is no doubt in my mind the Chargers would run this play.

Other Teams

I'm sure there are teams out there who ran it last year that I left out and more teams capable of running it like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with Josh Johnson or whoever lands Michael Vick.  For next year I see no reason why teams won't continue to run the formation,  the WildHog may even breakout at epidemic proportions like the swine-flu.

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