On the NFL: Vikings wild about Wildcat?

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 24, 2008 - 2:47 PM

The bye week is a perfect time for the Vikings to experiment with the latest trend in NFL offenses.

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Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown took a direct snap against the Chargers earlier this month. Over Miami’s past four games, the Wildcat formation has produced 256 yards and six touchdowns in 30 plays.

Just in case the Vikings haven't had enough free advice the past seven weeks, I'm offering something that makes Adrian Peterson more dangerous, puts Chester Taylor on the field at the same time, gives Tarvaris Jackson something to do and does not include the words, "Fire Brad Childress!"

It's called the Wildcat formation. It's spreading throughout the NFL, and the Vikings are a perfect fit for it.

The Wildcat formation is similar to the single wing formation that was popular during the NFL's infancy. The ball is snapped to a running back in the shotgun formation. The quarterback in this modern version splits out as a wide receiver.

Taking the snap, the running back can run, pass, hand off to another running back or throw laterally to the quarterback, who can run it himself or throw downfield to someone else.

The Dolphins introduced the formation -- or re-introduced it, if you will -- in Week 3. They scored four touchdowns out of it in a suprising rout of the Patriots.

In a copycat league, the 'Cat was out of the bag.

A week later, Jacksonville scored a long touchdown out of the formation. A day after that, I asked Childress if he ever had consider running some plays out of that formation.

"I don't know enough about the single wing," Childress said. "I think it was probably in before I was born. I've never read any books on it. It might be something to investigate in my bye week."

The Vikings' bye is this week. So you never know.

Naturally, the Wildcat would have more scratch to it if Peterson can throw the football effectively. So I asked Childress, "How's Adrian's arm?"

Childress smiled and said, "I don't think I would tell you that."

The Vikings certainly wouldn't be alone in jumping on the Wildcat bandwagon. Cleveland used it with Joshua Cribbs, a receiver and former college quarterback, taking the snap. Atlanta and Tampa Bay have used it. Oakland has used it with rookie Darren McFadden, who ran it quite a bit at Arkansas, from where the Dolphins picked it up.

In a bit of irony for football historians, the Bears have been toying with a version of the Wildcat formation in practice since last season. It was Chicago's 73-0 NFL title game victory over the Redskins in 1940 that helped revolutionize football by popularizing the T-formation.

In the current Bears' version of the Wildcat, the always dangerous Devin Hester would be the one to take the snap from center.

"I would love to do that [in a game]," Hester said this week. ''Oh, yeah. It's a great scheme. It seems like it is working for a lot of teams. ... I hope we get it in a game."

The Vikings should try it, too. And here's why:

• Gus Frerotte is so painfully stationary that opposing defenses go into games pretty much knowing where the quarterback will be standing at all times. That's a huge advantage.

• Imagine the anxiety it would create for the defense if Peterson lined up at quarterback instead of Frerotte.

• Imagine the additional anxiety if Chester Taylor, another proven 1,000-yard rusher, lined up next to Peterson.

• Now imagine the hesitation it would create if Jackson actually took his baseball cap off, put on a helmet lined up as a wide receiver. Peterson could throw to Jackson, who could either run or wing it 60 yards to Bernard Berrian.

I'm not saying replace the Kick-Ass Offense with the Wildcat full-time. But sprinkling it in now and then sure would be exciting and certainly difficult to defend if executed properly.

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