NFL Nation: RickyWilliams

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

Throughout the offseason, the commonly held belief among football observers was that defenses would catch up to the Wildcat offense and render it useless.

 
 AP Photo/J. Pat Carter
 Ronnie Brown is averaging 7.2 yards a play in the Wildcat formation.
Stats indicate otherwise.

The Miami Dolphins aren't staying just one step ahead of the competition. They're pulling away based on the numbers heading into Week 7.

In their six games, the Dolphins already have used the Wildcat about half as much as they did all last year, with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams averaging more yards per carry.

"We have seen everything," Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said of how defenses are lining up to snuff the Wildcat. "We have seen pressure. We have seen people making a conscience effort to set the edges of the defense, and we have seen people stack the box.

"It is crowded, but we have seen people leaving a safety in the middle of the field, thinking that what the answer is to us not throwing the football, people not worried about us throwing the football. Even fronts, odd fronts, we have seen it all -- over-shifted fronts. It is just a bunch of different things."

And none of it is working.

ESPN's Next Level stat crew keeps track of all that Wildcattiness and tells me Brown is averaging 7.2 yards a play (27 attempts for 194 yards), while Williams is averaging 6.2 yards per play (14 attempts for 88 yards).

Last year, Brown averaged 5.8 yards on 55 attempts. Williams averaged 5.6 yards on 27 carries.

Sparano recently said it all comes down to misdirection and not being able to key on any lead blocker. For example, defenses can't detect what's coming by watching the fullback because, in most cases, there isn't one.

"I think the Wildcat -- it takes you away from some of those things and gives you the misdirection," Sparano said. "In other words, you are not going to follow the fullback in the Wildcat and get the answer.

"Those kind of things, the kind of misdirection and the use of it -- strongside run, weakside run, downhill run -- I think that is what makes it most effective."

As for the criticisms from players such as New York Jets outside linebacker Calvin Pace -- he said "I can't respect that stuff, all that Wildcat. We're in the NFL. Don't come here with that nonsense" -- Sparano's not about to apologize for a strategy defenses not only are failing to prevent, but also are getting worse at containing.

"I could care less what other people think of it," Sparano said.

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