Wildcat Roars Again

The Wildcat was back on Saturday night, and it was as though it had never left. Really, it was almost like a highlight film of the best moments of 2008 from the funky formation.

After operating out of their base offense the entire game against Jacksonville, the Dolphins decided to use the Wildcat with their first-team offense against Carolina, running five plays with Ronnie Brown taking the snap from the shotgun with Chad Pennington lined up wide right, Ricky Williams lined up wide left and going in motion right before the snap, and Patrick Cobbs lined up in the slot.

Those five plays produced an impressive 53 yards and what should have been a touchdown.

Here's the breakdown:

• First quarter, second-and-4 from the Miami 26: Brown fakes the handoff to Williams and keeps for a 3-yard run.

• Same series, first-and-10 from the Miami 34: Brown fakes a handoff to Williams, fakes another handoff and keeps for no gain.

• Next series, second quarter, second-and-3 from the Miami 31: Brown hands off to Williams, who gains 11 yards.

• Same series, second-and-1 from the Carolina 49: Brown fakes the handoff and runs for 4 yards.

• Same series, first-and-10 from the Carolina 45: Brown hands off to Williams, who pitched to Pennington, who throws a 35-yard completion to Cobbs. That's the one that should have been a touchdown, but Cobbs had to wait for Pennington's underthrown pass and was tackled at the Carolina 10.

If anybody questions the wisdom of unveiling the Wildcat in the preseason, understand that teams know the Dolphins have those plays. In fact, Coach Tony Sparano made the point after the game that the four different plays the Dolphins ran out of the formation were plays they ran last season.

As he said, it was "no secret," but rather it gave the Dolphins a chance to see how a team like Carolina might defend the Wildcat.

Rest assured, the Dolphins will have many more different players out of the Wildcat formation this season, but the new wrinkles won't be shown until at least Sept. 13, which is the date of the regular season opener at Atlanta.

But still it was encouraging to see the Dolphins have success out of the Wildcat on Saturday, especially after what happened the previous time they had used it -- which, of course, was the playoff loss against Baltimore.

The key to the Wildcat succeeding against Carolina was the execution because the element of surprise just isn't that great anymore. Think about it, after the first time the Dolphins used the Wildcat Saturday night, the Panthers had to know it would be coming again.

The truth is you can call whatever play you want out of any formation, it still has to be blocked correctly and executed correctly.

Interestingly, perhaps the Wildcat play involving the most deception against Carolina is the one that got stuffed, and that was because a defender was left unblocked.

For the most part, though, the Dolphins executed out of the Wildcat very well. On a night that offered many positives, that may have been the biggest of all.


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