The wildcat formation has been an interesting wrinkle that was thrust into the NFL back in 2008, when the Miami Dolphins used it to upset the New England Patriots and eventually win the AFC East title.
While not an entirely new concept, the wildcat has become a trendy formation many teams have installed in their playbooks over the last few years.
The good folks at Pro Football Focus did an in-depth review of how teams used wildcat plays in 2010, in an attempt to see exactly who ran the wildcat most effectively last season.
For whatever reason, the Dolphins have become more and more ineffective using the formation as time goes on, especially with triggerman Ronnie Brown having a down season in 2010.
The man that made the current incarnation of the wildcat quarterback popular didn’t find much success in 2010. 36 of his carries came from the wildcat, but he picked up just 92 yards and a touchdown, or 2.5 yards per carry. Things went a bit better when he handed the ball off to Ricky Williams, who had runs of 28, 23 and 14 yards.
Unlike the top two wildcat quarterbacks, Brown was unable to complete a pass and Brandon Marshall’s throw failed as well. The Dolphins also had the most penalties on wildcat plays.
Those top two wildcat quarterbacks, based on the PFF research were Josh Cribbs of the Cleveland Browns and Brad Smith of the New York Jets.
Smith, who will be a free agent when the NFL lockout is lifted, may not have had the star status of the Pro Bowlers Brown and Cribbs, but he was electrifying every time he touched the ball.
The best wildcat quarterback in 2010 was by far the lesser-known Brad Smith. The backup receiver ran the ball from the wildcat 30 times for 212 yards and a touchdown … 7.1 yards per run. Half the time he handed the ball off, and the Jets other rushers had 4.0 yards per carry and a touchdown.
He didn’t try to pass often, but did complete a pair on three attempts for 3 yards each; one of them going for a touchdown. As the season progressed, the Jets used Smith in the wildcat more and more often. In Week 17 against the Bills, when the Jets had their playoff spot secured, they used him at QB 13 times, and in those plays he managed runs of 20 and 40 yards.
Interestingly enough, the Jets do not seem too inclined to bring Smith back. They drafted a potential replacement in TCU’s Jeremy Kerley in the fifth round of this past April’s draft.
With the development of third year quarterback Mark Sanchez, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Jets phase out the wildcat and stick mostly to a traditional offense to keep Sanchez in rhythm.
Even with the kick return rules in the NFL tweaked this upcoming year to favor touchbacks and potentially devalue kick returners, some creative team should be able to find a role for Brad Smith once he hits the market.
The “Smith Army Knife” will likely have a good chance to show off his stuff next season, but where he ends up remains to be seen.
While I won’t completely rule out a return to the Jets, in my opinion the Jets will let him walk away, and hopefully he’ll leave the AFC. He’s a dangerous weapon, and a big threat every time he touches the ball.