Buffalo News: Bills prepare for Wildcat package
How Jets utilize the offense is guesswork
Updated: September 3, 2012, 7:58 AM
The Buffalo Bills have a plan to prepare for the New York Jets' single-wing offense, widely known as the Wildcat.
The Jets have yet to unveil their Wildcat package or divulge how they plan to use multi-purpose quarterback Tim Tebow within it.
So the Bills will take their stack of Miami Dolphins scouting reports, place them next to their Denver Broncos scouting reports and shuffle them together like a deck of cards. Then the Bills will have two former Wildcat operatives help review the data.
Tebow was a gadget that helped Denver reach the second round of the playoffs last season. The Jets' new offensive coordinator, Tony Sparano, was Miami's head coach who started a Wildcat craze in 2008.
Their track records should give Buffalo's defense plenty of information to at least formulate an educated guess for Sunday's season opener at the Meadowlands.
"Anything they're doing is not new," Bills linebacker Nick Barnett said. "It's the NFL, and everything's been done before, and it'll be done again.
"The things you prepare for are the history. What that offensive coordinator's done mixed with what [the Jets] did last year. Obviously, there are going to be some new plays they haven't done, but Tebow has done a lot of those things in Denver. A lot of the things he was successful at in Denver, I'm sure they won't vacate those."
The Bills will have two qualified minds to help them digest those combined scouting reports. Quarterbacks coach David Lee is the assistant who introduced Sparano to the Wildcat in the first place. Lee ran the package as the offensive coordinator at Arkansas.
Backup quarterback Brad Smith ran the Wildcat package for the Jets before he joined the Bills as a free agent last year.
Given the connections, New York will be able to compile a similar dossier of Wildcat guesswork about Buffalo.
"The great thing is you don't know if we're going to run it once," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "You don't know if we're going to run it 20 times, 50 times, whatever. That's up to us, and if you're not prepared for it, why wouldn't we run it? If you're not defending it well, why wouldn't we keep running it?"
Sunday's opener will feature two offenses that have stated a commitment to the Wildcat at a time when its popularity appears to have waned league-wide.
The Wildcat became a fad after the Dolphins sprung it on the New England Patriots in 2008 -- with devastating results.
The Dolphins were coming off a 1-15 campaign and started the season with two ugly losses. With nothing to lose, Sparano agreed to deploy Lee's exotic offense. The Dolphins used it to beat the Patriots 38-13 and went on to win the AFC East.
In Miami's package, the quarterback would split wide like a receiver, leaving a running back in shotgun formation. Another back, lined up in the slot, would sprint in motion toward the middle of the field. The center would time his snap so defenses wouldn't know which running back had the ball.
When other teams tried to install versions of the Wildcat, they quickly discovered it was crucial to throw out of the formation. Otherwise, defenses would crowd the line to snuff the run. Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown was a threat to pass.
"Even if they come out in something we've never seen, you're automatically thinking it's going to be a run," Bills cornerback Terrence McGee said.
"They really didn't show any of it in preseason. So you just kind of assume. There are only certain things you can do with the Wildcat anyway. You just go out with an idea of what they were doing in Miami and what they did in Denver and then adjust to what we see."
That's why the Bills and the Jets have scrambling quarterbacks as their Wildcat triggermen. They can keep defenses honest on their heels.
A significant benefit of the Wildcat is forcing your opponent to dedicate large chunks of precious practice and meeting time to strategize for it.
"I think it takes a lot of your time," Ryan said. "There's some guys who say it'll take a third of the practice. Some guys say it will take less than that. I don't know if it's that much, but I know it's on your mind."