[picappgallerysingle id=”7140936″]Every player has a role on the team; Tashard Choice’s role is running the ball out of the Wildcat (or Razorback) formation. Last year in his second NFL season, Choice ran the ball 64 times for 349 yards (a 5.5 average) and scored 3 touchdowns. TC also caught 15 passes for 132 yards, an average of 8.8 yards per reception. Most of this high-efficiency production came out of the unique formation made popular by Kansas State University in the 1990s and the University of Arkansas in the 2000s. Other than quarterback Tony Romo, no other player took an offensive snap last season other than Choice. According to the Georgia Tech product, there are no such things as Wildcats and Razorbacks in Cowboys country.
When asked about the strange formation after running it multiple times against Philadelphia in November of last year, Choice corrected all who called it by the wrong name. “TC – that’s what it’s called, baby. It’s called TC. That’s what it’s really called. Yeah, no Wildcat. It’s me, going in the game: TC. That’s what it’s called.” Supposedly, if you are the only player involved in a specific formation, you get to name it. Choice obviously is not overly subtle or modest about his role on the team. Although most people might be as confident as Choice if they possessed a 5.3 career rushing average.
[picappgallerysingle id=”7504472″]He may be third on the depth chart, but Choice is the most complete running back on the Cowboys’ roster. Marion Barber is great at barreling over defenders, but he is not the ideal back to run a buck sweep. Felix Jones is the ideal sweep back, but you won’t see him piling up yards between the tackles. Choice is pretty good at everything. His rookie year went a little differently than expected as he was called upon to carry the workload toward the end of the season when Barber and Jones were both out with injuries. That 2008 campaign saw Choice rack up 88 yards on 23 carries against the league’s top run defense, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Two weeks later, the former Yellow Jacket ran the ball 17 times for 90 yards against Baltimore’s second-ranked rush defense.
That early production was out of the typical running back position. Choice found a new niche in the “TC” formation last year with Barber and Jones healthy. Ask any other third running back in the NFL how many carries they got last season. The answer won’t be anywhere near Choice’s total. The third-year back should really flourish in 2010 from the set he named after himself. The Wildcat was only an experiment with Choice in 2009, but it should be a well-executed strategy this season. The Dolphins’ Ronnie Brown thrived in the same formation the past two seasons down in Miami, so there is no reason why Choice can’t do the same in Dallas.
[picappgallerysingle id=”2956912″]The biggest obstacle in TC’s success is the timing of his plays. That part of the equation relies on offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, who is extremely fond of the draw play. Brown has several options when running the Wildcat; he can handoff to teammate Ricky Williams on a sweep, run the ball through two or more different holes, or even pass. Don’t expect to see Choice throwing the ball anytime this year, but do look for him to have more options when running from his self-named set. The only way for the Wildcat to be continuously successful is to constantly reinvent it. In 2009, Choice ran the ball through a predetermined hole after taking the snap, just as Brown did in 2008. Brown had many more options last season, and Garrett must make sure Choice has the same if he wants TC to succeed.
The first idea that comes to mind would be using speedster Kevin Ogletree, a second-year receiver. Ogletree was used sparingly last year, only catching a handful of passes and returning a few kickoffs. Dallas could have its own version of the Brown-Williams combo to use only in perfect situations. That’s the other key to the Wildcat; using it when least expected. Choice found some success near the goal line last year with TC, and a second player like Ogletree could expand that success for the other 80 yards of play. Food for thought.