Point / Counterpoint: Wildcat

Last week, JagNation.com reported that several sources indicated that the Jaguars were experimenting with the "Wildcat" in practice. Should the Jaguars even be experimenting with the newly popular variation of the spread? Do they even have the right personnel? Charlie Bernstein and Brendan Sonnone debate the merits of toying with the gimmick offense in this latest edition of "Point/Counterpoint."

The Jaguars' offense took a huge step backwards last season after accumulating some of the best regular season numbers in franchise history in 2007. A large part of that was due to injuries along Jacksonville's offensive line, but major contributors such as David Garrard, Fred Taylor and Reggie Williams failed to make the same impact they did during the team's offensive renaissance in '07, and now Garrard is the only one of those players that is back. What will the Jaguars do to rejuvenate their offense this year? Several reports have indicated that the team will run the Wildcat offense with Garrard lined up at receiver and Maurice-Jones Drew taking snaps from the shotgun. Is it the way to go?

Brendan Sonnone:

I have an ‘if it isn't broke, don't fix it' mentality, but when it's not working, something needs to be done. I strongly believe that the Jaguars need to get back to their pound-it-out brand of football, as that will enable David Garrard to be at his most effective level. That being said, this Jacksonville offense isn't made up of the same players as the 2007's smash-mouth team was. The team doesn't have a strong one-two running back punch like it did two years ago and it now has quicker, speedier receivers as opposed to when bigger targets like Reggie Williams were on the roster. All this points to the team needing to find other ways to score other than pounding the ball and then running five-yard slants.

With less depth at running back, more overall speed amongst the receivers and a Garrard who is apparently in better shape than last year, running the Wildcat makes some sense. I'm not saying go crazy and run it as many times as the Dolphins did, but could it really hurt to use it a few times a game to keep defenses honest? I really see no harm in spending a little bit of practice every day on installing a few plays from this formation.

Here are the positives. 1.) Garrard is quicker and more athletic than Chad Pennington, the same quarterback who was on the field when the Wildcat was run with the ‘Fins. 2.) More speed all around with a quarterback who has trouble on the deep-ball means you have to utilize this speed in other ways, what better way than a formation that allows for all kinds of reverses? 3.) Maurice-Jones Drew does not always have to take snaps here. The team added a very athletic and versatile quarterback/tight end in Zach Miller, who has plenty of experience running from the spread in college. 4.) When Jones-Drew does take snaps in this formation, who is going to stop him? If gives the human muscle a head of steam to truck defenders and more importantly, who is going to locate him? At 5'7", he can sneak his way behind the offensive line before defenders know what's happening. Plus imagine if Jones-Drew can throw the ball, it would drive defensive backs insane. Can you imagine them trying to peek into the backfield to find the quarterback and read his eyes?

While toying with your offense too much can be a bad thing, letting players get excited over some trick plays is a good thing for moral. The benefits of finding a successful offense far outweigh the negatives of not having it work that effectively once or twice during a game and then scrapping it for good. In this case, there are too many positives than negatives to at least give it a shot. Think the Dolphins would have made the playoffs if they didn't have the guts to at least give this a try?

Charlie Bernstein:

Gimmicky, gimmicky, gimmicky. The NFL is a copycat league, and the Jaguars will likely try to institute a little "wildcat" into their playbook. I've come to accept this. The only problem I see with it is that when you have personnel that normally don't handle the football in a potential passing situation, there will be more bad than good that will come from it.

I know the flag-football, playground part of everyone's collective souls want to see quarterbacks split out wide and double or triple reverses, but it's not going to work when teams get film on these formations and plays. The Dolphins had some great early success by "surprising" teams with their version of the spread, but as the season progressed and they squared off against better defenses, the big plays were all but erased.

I like the Jaguars practicing this style of offense as it gives the defense an opportunity to see these gadget plays up close. Perhaps some of these plays would even work in very limited situations, but for the Jaguars to give up a pro-style offense would basically send the message that they don't think David Garrard can get the job done as a regular drop back quarterback.

The Jaguars offense could be a real strength this season and they don't have to trick opponents to score.

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