- Matt Ehalt, ESPN New York contributor
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There will be no surprise to the Jets defense when it sees the Dolphins line up in the Wildcat Sunday. It’s part of Miami’s identity and what makes their offense unique.
It also can give opposing defenses, even ones as stingy as the Jets, fits all game long.
Stopping the Wildcat formation will be a key defensive theme for the Jets Sunday, and the players maintain as long as they stay within their positions and their defensive schemes, they will be well equipped to handle it.
“Every time we play it they’re going to throw in something new or something different. The biggest thing is to not get affected by it, to attack and play your technique,” defensive end Vernon Gholston said. “Seeing it before, you know how to adjust to it. You come in with certain defenses or certain adjustments to it, but at the end of the day, it’s all about getting to the football.”
The first time the two teams met last season, the Dolphins used the Wildcat formation to great success. Miami ran the formation 16 times in its 151-yard rushing performance in Miami’s 31-27 win on Oct. 12, 2009. When the teams played again On Nov. 1, 2009, at Giants Stadium, the Jets shut down the Wildcat, as Miami used it just seven times for six yards in its 30-25 win.
As Gholston described, the biggest problem with the Wildcat is it becomes a numbers game for the opposing defense. When the Wildcat formation is called, an extra blocker or runner is brought in, forcing the defense to adjust by usually bringing in an extra guy into the box. This leaves the team a little thin in the secondary, and there is always the option of the running back throwing a pass out of the formation.
In the secondary, as explained by Jets safety Brodney Pool, the key is to be disciplined. If a player expects them to run the ball every time, a defense can get beat by a pass. The secondary personnel can’t be out of place, and has to watch the play develop in front of it.
“They can give you formations that spread the field a little bit more that you have to lighten up,” Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said. “Now that the running back’s taking the direct snap, you’re basically getting two-back runs against defenses that are only geared to defend one-back runs. That’s the advantage of it. You really have to look at the math of each formation and try to make sure that the math is right in your favor defensively.”
While Miami upgraded its passing game with the addition of wide receiver Brandon Marshall in the offseason, the Dolphins are still a run-oriented team. Their running back tandem of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams is one of the best in the game, and runs the Wildcat arguably as good as any team in football.
The Jets know what to expect Sunday night. Now, it’s time to go out and stop it.
“I think if we do a good job of stopping their offense we can get our offense a chance to stay on the field and make plays,” Pool said. “You saw what they did last week when we got them on the field. We’re just going to have to come out and play good and stop Miami.”