Tuesday, September 22, 2009

More On The Wildcat


I want to talk some more about the Wildcat. I covered it in the Game Review, but there was a lot of other material to get to.

The Wildcat came from the University of Arkansas. Coach Houston Nutt had 2 of the best players in the country, but both were RBs. How do you get them on the field at the same time? You do it by having one play QB. Hello, Wildcat.

RB Darren McFadden and RB Felix Jones put up great numbers in the 2007 season. The Razorbacks finished 4th in the nation in rushing. McFadden went for 1830 yards and 16 TDs. Jones "only" ran for 1162 yards and 11 TDs. He did average just under 9 yards per carry. 9 !!! What made the Wildcat even more dangerous is that McFadden was 6 of 11 for 123 yards and 4 TDs as a passer. That QB rating has gotten be around 130 or so.

The Miami Dolphins hired David Lee off of Arkansas's staff after the year. He and some other coaches decided to try the Wildcat last year at the NFL level. Miami had Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown in the backfield. They didn't have a strong passing game or good QB at the time. (Chad Pennington was picked up late) The Dolphins figured they would be smart to use Brown and Williams together and would need to create some big plays due to their lack of offensive firepower. Hello, Wildcat.

The Eagles mixed in some Wildcat last year. They let DeSean Jackson take some direct snaps. He ran for a TD vs the Giants. He had pretty good success as a runner. He tried to throw a pass vs CLE, but it was picked off in the endzone.

This offseason the Eagles added LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin. Both ran the Wildcat at their schools. Both are versatile offensive weapons. Then we signed Mike Vick. He is the ultimate Wildcat player. We all knew that the Wildcat would be a regular part of the offense in 2009.

I don't mind us using it if done correctly. The Wildcat is not really supposed to be all that tricky. It is basically a numbers game. The point is to have more blockers on offense and less defenders to deal with. The QB lines up out wide. A CB goes with him. That leaves 10 other players on each side. One Safety has to line up deep. That leaves 9 defenders in or around the box to deal with as many as 9 blockers. If every player gets a good block, the runner can come up with a good gain. In a way, that is simple power football.

It gets trickier when you have the Wildcat QB mix in option plays. Now the defense has to read the play and fight off blockers. You can make that even more complicated by bringing a player in motion to fake to or hand off to.

There is a lot of window dressing to make the WC seem complicated, but it remains a running attack at its heart. Most teams build the attack to feature N-S running. That requires guys with burst and/or strength. It isn't meant to go E-W. That allows the defense to flow to the ball. The offense is meant to attack upfield to try and find a good seam.

Andy ran quite a bit of WC plays on Sunday. Some I liked, others were too gimmicky. Here are notes on some of the plays:

* Snap to Westy and him running - good.

* DeSean running outside on 3rd/short - good.

* Handoff to Westy on End Around - good.

* Double Reverse and pitch to Kolb for pass attempt - not good. Too tricky.

* Unbalanced line to the left. Westy takes snap, fakes handoff to guy in motion. Westy runs to the right side for a gain of 16 - great design, execution

* Westy pass to Weaver - good play, but was that the time to use it?

I hope a lot of you saw the MNF game between MIA and Indy. The Dolphins ran for 239 yards. They controlled the game. I loved watching their power rushing attack. Unfortunately you also saw the downside of that offense. They couldn't score enough. Miami lost 27-23 despite having the ball for almost 46 minutes in the game. They ran 85 offensive snaps.

We don't need to be the Dolphins. We do need to learn from them. They use the Wildcat wisely. They use it to give the offense a boost and confuse the defense just a bit. They don't overly complicate things. The point isn't to completely trick the defense. They want to slow defenders enough that simple plays lead to good gains.

We are much more into trying to outsmart the other team. Andy does this in the base offense so it isn't a surprise that he does it in the WC as well. I have a feeling this will drive me crazy. Brown had 24 carries last night. Ricky had 19. That is a total of 43. Take away WC plays and they still combine for 30 or so carries. Our RBs totaled 18 carries with the WC. I know we trailed. We still need to get the ball to Westy and McCoy as the foundation of the offense.

Westy ran very well in the 1st half on Sunday, but was not even effective after halftime. He hurt his ankle and looked slow. We need to use McCoy more on WC plays, but really pound a couple of things in his head: 1 - hold onto the ball, 2 - run upfield. LeSean has a great burst. He can eat up yards in a hurry. That is perfect for the WC. He has a tendency to like to go wide. That is much more hit and miss. I'd also like us to give the ball to Weaver in the WC. He's strong enough to break some arm tackles and pound on defenders. We need to mix in a physical runner.

Andy also needs to realize that running out of the base offense helps the blockers to get in a good flow. Do that and the WC plays become that much more effective. You wear down the defense and suddenly the WC can spring a player for a good gain. We traded base runs for WC runs. We need to trade pass plays for WC runs.

I can't judge too much based on one game. The Saints offense did make us change our approach to Sunday's game. Hopefully this week we'll have a lead and we can see Andy do a lot more running, WC or base. As for Vick...I don't know what to expect from him. I'm guessing he plays about 10 snaps and has 4 or 5 runs. I'm sure he'll throw a pass as well.

Kolb will be the starting QB, but Vick and the Wildcat will be part of the attack. Let's hope we get some impact from it and that Big Red keeps the ball on the ground a bit more this time out. Instead of yelling "Pound the rock, Andy" in a fiery voice I guess I need to politely hint, "Say Andrew, why don't we mix in one of those non-passing plays that you swear exist in your playbook".



Cliff said...

Yeah, the best part of the Dolphins' Wildcat offense is that it kept the Colts' defense on its heals and really wore them down. I mean REALLY wore them down. Anyone who watched the game could see how physically tired their defense was. The Wildcat was able to get Dwight Freeney off the field for a ton of snaps because the Colts kept having to rotate players in and out on the fly. That had an amazing effect. The Dolphins looked unstoppable, then Peyton Manning went all - in the voice of LL Cool J - PEYTON MANNING on them.

There's no reason we couldn't have done the same thing to the Saints. The problem we had is the same problem the Dolphins had - a very, very good quarterback who doesn't need half a quarter to score.

I think our Wildcat offense has the potential to keep us from those dreaded 3 passes and out series that are all too common.

Pitmanite said...

One word in response to your entire blog post...AMEN!

Unfortunately, I've got a better shot of seeing Megan Fox walk through my front door (ahhhh that would be glorious), then we do of seeing "Andrew" sacrifice a pass play at the sake of a running play.

p.s. Did you see the Dolphins 2 minute drill--that really ended up being a 15 minute drill--at the end of the game last night? It gave me flashbacks of the 2004 super bowl.

Stephen said...

Talking about Andy running the ball more is just getting redundant at this point. Its the same discussion we have every year. He's not going to run more base running plays.

The obsession with tricking the defense etc. is not going to go away either, thats just who Andy is. I've essentially given up hope that he's going to evolve as a coach and accepted the fact that we're going to use the same ish we always use.

It was especially frustrating to see us get away from the base running plays early because they were working very well. Anytime you can get 4 or 5 yards on a carry consistently you're in good shape.

The only saving grace is I don't think we would have won the game regardless of what we did on offense. When the Saints took the ball early in the 4th quarter after we punted and just ran it down our throats I had flashbacks to the 2006 playoff game. Anytime a team can just run it right at you when you need to get the ball back and get a touchdown out of it, its basically game over anyhow.

T_S_O_P said...

"Talking about Andy running the ball more is just getting redundant at this point. Its the same discussion we have every year. He's not going to run more base running plays."

Until the season is all but over and then all of a sudden the running game, the balance and the wins return! Welcome to the Andy and Marty Laugh In.

Dollar Brand said...

If it's Laugh-In then who is Goldie Hawn?

Pitmanite said...

I agree about Andy's habits. Every year I promise myself I won't get worked up about his playcalling (i.e. lack of running the ball), and without fail I always find myself getting all worked up about it.

For my own sanity, I have to shift my focus elsewhere. How about we start with taking bets on the first time Asante will actually wrap his arms on a tackle attempt?