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Around the AFC East, Week 1 - Miami Dolphins

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Hello Patriots fans.  During the long, long, long, long NFL offseason, us writers try to do as much useful writing as we can.  The draft provides weeks of material as well as the free agent market.  Then, there's nothing after the rookie minicamp until OTA's start.  It can be a snooze fest for one and all.  Well, I'm here to take you away from all that!

Each year, around this time, bloggers from the four AFC East rivals get together for a weekly exchange of questions called "Around the AFC East".  We exchange questions during the week and post a rival's answer on our blog.  It's fun, promotes cross blogging (I didn't say cross dressing; mind out of the gutter please), and gets the juices flowing.

First up is Matty I from our Miami Dolphins blog, The Phinsider.  Read on as I query the 2008 AFC East Division Champion about the 'Wildcat'.

PP: Miami did a number on NE in Game 3 with the 'Wildcat' and proceeded to have success throughout the season.  Like any play, it seemed folks had film on it later in the season and were able to scheme against it with some success.  Do you feel the 'Wildcat' can still be an effective play for the Dolphins?

Phinsider: Well let me start off by saying that the ‘Wildcat’ will never be as effective as it was against the Pats back in week 3 of last season.  To be honest, it still baffles me how Bill Belichick was arrogant enough to seemingly refuse to make any adjustments to defend that formation as the game was unraveling right in front of his eyes.  Reminds me of the Super Bowl against the Giants and how the "great" Belichick just refused to make the necessary adjustments to account for the Giants’ pass rush.

So can the ‘Wildcat’ still be effective?  I think so.  And I feel this way because the ‘Wildcat" is nothing more than a football formation.  It’s not a gimmick – no matter how much the media wants to claim it is.  It’s simply basic football.  This formation was being used back when the forward pass was considered a "gimmick."  And when executed properly, the ‘Wildcat’ is just as effective as any other running formation.

With the addition of Pat White, the ‘Wildcat’ is likely far from becoming obsolete.  White changes the entire dynamic of the formation.  Previously, to stop the formation when Ronnie Brown was taking the snaps, defenses were taking the free safety and bring him up into the box because there wasn’t much of a passing threat – though we know the Dolphins weren’t afraid to let Ronnie throw it every once in a while.  But with a legitimate passing threat taking the snaps, defenses will have to make a decision.  Do they want to bring their safeties up in the box and leave their corners one on one on the outside?  Or do they want to keep at least their free safety deep, but run the risk of being "out-gapped" in the running game if White keeps it and runs towards the strong side of the unbalanced offensive line?  That’s the decision defensive coordinators will have to make when they prepare for the Dolphins in 2009.

It's interesting how Belichick is viewed as arrogant because he wouldn't change his game plan.  I think he was sticking with his game plan because he's had success using that strategy in the past - stay with what you planned for rather than making snap adjustments.

That being said, I do believe the Wildcat is something many teams are utilizing.  NE experimented with it last year and even drafted a QB this year, Brian Hoyer, who's an equal threat as both a passer and receiver.

Props to Matty I at The Phinsider for his thorough treatment of the subject.  Head on over to his blog for my answer to his question as well as Fins exchanges with the other AFC East blogs.