It’s usually wise to expect the unexpected in the NFL. That’s why I’m not going to act the least bit surprised that Rex Ryan’s defense looked befuddled on Monday night while trying to defend second year quarterback Chad Henne and the Dolphins’ Wildcat formation.
Thanks to Henne’s surprising accuracy (he completed 20 of his 26 pass attempts for 241 yards and 2 touchdowns) and the combination of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams running the Wildcat, the Dolphins topped the Jets 31-27 in one of the more entertaining games of the year.
All right I admit – I’m a little surprised that Ryan’s defense was little match for the Wildcat. After all, if there were one defensive mind in the NFL that could shut down that formation, it would be Ryan right? Then why whenever the Dolphins needed a big play in the fourth quarter to keep the chains moving did they successfully use the Wildcat? Why can no defensive guru figure this formation out?
The short answer is that Miami runs the Wildcat so well that even the stingiest of defensive coordinators can’t slow them down. Brown has been the perfect fit for the formation and even though he’s on the wrong side of 30, Williams still displays good burst when he runs. Simply put, the Dolphins have mastered the formation and will still give teams (any team, including Ryan’s Jets) fits while using it.
The Wildcat also helped open things up for Henne in the passing game. He wasn’t asked to do too much, but he came up with a couple of huge completions when Miami needed them, specifically on a 53-yard touchdown pass to Ted Ginn Jr. early in the fourth. It’s still early, but the Dolphins may have found their franchise quarterback.
On the other side, Mark Sanchez turned in his second poor outing in consecutive weeks. He certainly wasn’t as bad as he was last week in New Orleans, but he was shaky to say the least. He finished with only 172 yards on 12 of 24 passing, although he did throw a touchdown pass to the newly acquired Braylon Edwards, who looked like a player with a new lease on life while hauling in five receptions for 64 yards.
Sanchez was far from the reason the Jets lost, but it has been clear the past two weeks that defensive coordinators are starting to figure out how to game plan for him. This is when it’s important for a young quarterback to learn from what he’s seeing on the field and not lose confidence in his abilities. He didn’t turn the ball over tonight, which was big considering he threw three interceptions and lost a fumble against New Orleans last week. But Sanchez needs to continue to learn from his mistakes and move forward in his development.