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The Wildcat

Posted Aug 1, 2010

The formation was the buzz of St. Joe on Saturday, but is it here to stay?

The inevitable was coming for Todd Haley after the Chiefs finished the first of two practices held yesterday. When the Kansas City lined up for the first play of *competitive 11 vs. 11 drills in Wildcat formation, the chatter started. When the Chiefs ran every single play of the five-minute period out of Wildcat, the formation became the talk of practice.

When it comes to the Wildcat, it’s hard not to think about the formation’s possibilities in Kansas City. Although the Chiefs tried the formation for a forgettable moment in 2009, Wildcat is a component that Chiefs fans have often seen used against them, rather than with them.

“I think it all comes down to the players you have and that’s really kind of the process we’re in and you check out who can do what and if it’s something we want to do, we’ll expand on it,” Haley said. “If we don’t, we’ll still have an advantage of letting our defense see something else.”

 With players like Dexter McCluster, Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones all able to fit into Wildcat packages, it’s understandable why the Chiefs want to look at a little bit of everything this exhibition season. But, as they say, “don’t count the eggs before they hatch.”

Dedicating an entire team portion of practice to Wildcat work was just as much about the preparing the defense as it was for evaluating the offense. The Wildcat formation is predicated on confusing the defenses, leading to missed assignments and big play.

“Get a defender out of place and the ball to a play-maker in space,” is one of the best ways that I’ve heard someone describe Wildcat philosophy in one sentence or less.

The Wildcat Formation is no longer a rarity in the NFL. Offensive Coordinator Dan Henning brought the offense into the NFL’s mainstream with the Dolphins in 2008, but the Wildcat’s roots go much further into the college game and even in the pros.

In the 1998 NFC Championship, speedster WR Tim Dwight took a direct snap for the Falcons with QB Chris Chandler spilt out wide, and in 2006 the Panthers used the formation with RB DeAngelo Williams due to an injury situation; Henning was the coordinator.

“I think that Wildcat is part of the league right now, or some form of somebody else handling the football from under center,” Haley said. “We’re doing it for a couple different reasons and one of those is for our defensive to give our defense a chance to see some of that because I don’t think it’s going anywhere fast. I think the teams know it’s coming now; there’s definitely been a lot more going on, more last year than the year before.”

If you’re looking for a Chiefs connection to the Wildcat’s professional roots, the trio of Henning, Todd Haley and Charlie Weis were all together in the N.Y. Jets organization from 1998-1999. However, from Haley’s tone yesterday, it doesn’t sound as if the three were busy plotting the Wildcat’s NFL future while in Long Island.

“I think we both come from the school of ‘let the throwers throw, the catchers catch and the runners run,” Haley said.

You’ll likely see more of the Wildcat when you visit St. Joseph, but when it comes to the formation becoming a mainstay in the Chiefs 2010 game plan, it’s going to have to prove itself on the field.

*Competitive 11 vs. 11 is conducted at the end of Chiefs practices, resulting in a specific competition between the offense and defense. Two-minute periods, third-down situations and goal line sets are all common occurrences as the Chiefs close out practice sessions.

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