Attacking The Wildcat

By MikeBullock  |   Friday, October 30, 2009  |  Comments( 1 )

Miami Dolphins
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The very name “Wildcat” seems to bring with it a pulse quickening unlike any other form of offense. There’s just something about it that conveys a sense of excitement, conjures visions of big, mind-blowing plays and really grabs a football fan right in the adrenal glands.

When the Wildcat first came in vogue last year, visions of just what the Zone Blitz brought in the ‘90s danced through the minds and hearts of football fans everywhere. Even though it’d been around for decades, never before in the modern era had teams placed such an emphasis on using it as more than a random trick play. It was now a strategy to be reckoned with and something defensive coordinators had to game plan for when finding ways to stop opposing offenses.

However, just like the Zone Blitz, while almost every team dabbled in it, few really mastered the language of the system. Unfortunately, for Rex Ryan, Miami is to the Wildcat what Pittsburgh is to the Zone Blitz.

Running the Wildcat successfully brings with it two advantages: surprise and speed. It doesn’t take a genius to realize if you can surprise a defense, then simply outrun them, victory is easily attainable.

Only a few short weeks ago, Ryan’s defense was unable to get off the field on third downs, allowing Miami to convert on nine of their fourteen attempts. When the defense doesn’t get off the field, exhaustion comes next. Do the easy math and see that an exhausted defense is in no position to either a) recover from surprise or b) chase down a speedster.

That being said, the Jets aren’t pushovers by any means and no team can live by Wildcat alone. With the untimely, unfortunate demise of Jim Johnson this off-season, Rex Ryan moved closer to the top of the NFL defensive brain trust. One could argue that only Pittsburgh’s Dick Lebeau is a master over Ryan. That theory will certainly be put to the test this week, as Ryan has had a full frontal shot of Miami’s offense and just what it can do to his D.

Looking at this from a defensive mindset, placing an Inside Linebacker on the Wildback, then assigning an Outside Linebacker to the Tight End and bringing up the Strong Safety to shadow the first Halfback seems like the way to go for New York, but that still leaves an uncovered Halfback, depending on where Miami’s receivers are placed. Not to mention the adverse affect different blocking schemes will have on this idea.

That places the onus of stopping the surprising speedsters on Bryan Thomas, Bart Scott, Calvin Pace and Jim Leonhard. Not one of these guys is a slouch by any means. If Ryan can dial up a play that puts them in position to do their jobs, the Dolphins will be swimming uphill all day. However, it doesn’t seem like that happened often enough when last they met. So, the question comes down to this: Can Miami’s Offensive Coordinator Dan Henning continue to help his players keep Ryan and the Jets off balance or will their second meeting prove to be all Ryan needed to out think, out scheme and outcoach his opponent. Last week showed the Dolphins are mistake prone, while the Jets seem to be far more careful with the ball. However, mistakes from the top compound as they roll down to the field. Who blinks first, Ryan or Henning?

Either way, the game within the game will certainly be Ryan’s defensive play calling versus Miami’s Wildcat. If Ryan can stop it, Jets win. If not, the Dolphins can break out the broom and take home a sweep. No matter what happens, it’ll be a very interesting game.
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