When an offensive team moves into the Wildcat Formation in football, it seldom goes unobserved by the broadcasters. Why? Because it adds a different wrinkle to the team’s play-calling.
What is a wildcat formation in football?
The definition of a wildcat formation is a type of offensive alignment that football teams use when the center directly snaps the ball to a non-traditional quarterback. The wildcat offense quarterback is typically a runningback or fullback and sometimes a wide receiver or tight end.
- The wildcat formation is used to deceive opponents.
- Typically, teams with elite quarterbacks don’t use the wildcat offense as much as teams with less talented quarterbacks.
- Wildcat offenses are run based on the situation of the game and based on the needs and abilities of the offensive team.
- Teams run the wildcat offense because it is so difficult and time-consuming to prepare for.
- The Miami Dolphins were the first NFL team to run the wildcat on a regular basis in 2008.
Why do teams run a wildcat offense?
Teams that have running backs or wide receivers that can throw the ball well, in addition to running with the ball, are big threats in the wildcat offense. This formation is run because of its uniqueness and shock-factor to the defense. Teams that have a star quarterback rarely use the wildcat, however, teams that don’t have a strong quarterback use the wildcat pretty often.
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History of the wildcat formation
The wildcat formation is derived from the 1920s when Pop Warner ran a Single Wing offense. The Kansas State coaching staff, led by Bill Snyder and Del Miller, adjusted the development of the formation throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. The wildcat became popularized across college and professional football by the 1990s.
What is a direct snap in football?
A direct snap is when the center hikes the ball to an unexpected player on purpose while in a shotgun formation. In most cases, a normal snap would go to the quarterback. But, the direct snap goes to a running back or wide receiver. Direct snaps are common for plays involving the wildcat.
What formations do wildcat offenses use?
Wildcat offenses can send the defense scrambling to figure out what is going on. With this type of offense, the quarterback splits out wide to line up as a wide receiver. A non-traditional quarterback comes in to take the snap. Wildcat formations can be done in a variety of ways, but mainly through formations known as the Two Back Power Run and Wildcat Counter.
Two Power Back Run
In this formation, the right side of the field is overloaded with offensive personnel to block for the ball-carrier to overpower on that side. This play doesn’t usually get a lot of yards but is a good short-yardage wildcat play.
In this formation, the right side is overloaded again with just one receiver on the left side before being motioned over to the right to create deception. When the ball is snapped, the ball-carrier runs to the left and uses the tight end as the lead blocker. This play is usually more of a home run play. If it works, you get a big gain, if it fails, you may lose yardage.
When do teams run the wildcat?
The wildcat isn’t run every play. Some teams run it more often than others, depending on each team’s specific needs. Some teams may use it throughout an entire drive while others use it only in short-yardage situations.
Wildcat in the NFL
The wildcat was used very seldomly until 2008 when the Miami Dolphins used it in Week 3. The Dolphins used running backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams as the wildcat quarterback. Miami’s wildcat offense averaged seven yards per play after 11 games. Miami’s success with the wildcat prompted other teams to adapt their own wildcat offenses, but recent years have seen the wildcat offense to be used much less.
While still used on a rare occasion, it is still used. Perhaps the most prominent wildcat play in NFL history was when the Philadelphia Eagles used it in their Super Bowl LII victory over the New England Patriots in 2018. This play was bizarre because it happened at such an important moment in the game as 4th & goal within two yards from the end zone with 38 seconds left in the first half.
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The Wildcat Formation can be a distinct advantage to the a team that has the right player to take the snap. It takes an exceptional athlete.
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