Brandon Marshall Trade: Miami Dolphins Killing the 'Cat?

Hank K.Contributor IApril 15, 2010

DENVER - NOVEMBER 26:  Corey Webster #23 of the New York Giants breaks up a pass in the endzone intended for wide receiver Brandon Marshall #15 of the Denver Broncos during NFL action at Invesco Field at Mile High on November 26, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Giants 26-6. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

If the Wildcat formation isn't dead, it'll certainly be taking a nap in 2010.

The 2009 season saw less and less of the Miami Dolphins' Wildcat formation as Ronnie Brown got hurt and Chad Henne developed as a passer.  With a legitimate passing game, the Dolphins no longer needed to rely on the Wildcat.

With a healthy Ronnie Brown, one would expect to see more of the Wildcat formation in 2010, but the trade for Brandon Marshall suggests that the Dolphins will use the Wildcat even less than they did last season.

The Wildcat formation was implemented by the Dolphins in 2008 in order to compensate for the fact that opposing defenses were stacking the box against the run game without any fear of being punished through the air.

Last summer, I wrote an article describing the Wildcat formation and the elements that make it successful.  After the Dolphins drafted Pat White in the second round of last year, I expected them to have more passing options in the Wildcat.

When Chad Pennington got hurt, it seemed the Dolphins would start relying heavily on the Wildcat, as they did successfully in a 31-27 Week Five Monday night win against the Jets.

However, with injuries to both Ronnie Brown and Patrick Cobbs (a running back who had started playing a role as yet another option in the Wildcat), and White's struggles as a rookie adjusting to the NFL passing game, the Dolphins had to rely on their passing game more than they probably wanted to as the season went on.

Fortunately for the Dolphins, they ended up not needing the Wildcat.  Henne played excellently for a first-year starter, salvaging a season that had started off poorly and had only looked to get worse after Pennington's shoulder injury.

Now that the Dolphins have traded for an elite receiver in Marshall, they need the Wildcat even less.  Marshall will require a constant double-team, leaving more room for Miami's other receivers and tight ends to get open.

As a result, defenses will no longer be able to focus as much on the run game.  With a promising quarterback like Henne, a top-tier receiver like Marshall, and a lot more passing lanes open for the Dolphins' other receivers, the running game will have plenty of room.

The purpose of the Wildcat is to emphasize an unbalanced offense's strengths and cover up its weaknesses.  The Dolphins finally have balance, and they no longer need that.

The Wildcat, which the Dolphins executed far better than any other team in the league for the past two years, will now be a luxury instead of a necessary commodity in Miami. 

We might see less of the Wildcat, but the balance provided by the Marshall trade will allow the running game to be even better than it has been the past two years.  That's saying a lot.