Barry Jackson

The Dolphins surprised Pats with Wildcat a decade ago. This is why it has few uses now

Dolphins’ Tannehill prepares for Patriots in Miami, where the Fins have won 4 out of the last 5 games

Miami Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill prepares for the New England Patriots, although the Fins have won 4 out of the last 5 games in Miami
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Miami Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill prepares for the New England Patriots, although the Fins have won 4 out of the last 5 games in Miami

Ten years after the Dolphins famously unveiled the Wildcat with rousing success against New England, it’s now a far more limited part of Miami’s offense.

And the formation, with Miami’s current personnel, also has been far less successful than the Ronnie Brown-fueled Wildcat that the Dolphins rode to great success during their 11-5 season in 2008.

Kalen Ballage has run four plays out of the Wildcat this season and gained only eight yards. He also had a 12-yard carry from the Wildcat in the second Jets game that was nullified by a penalty.

That’s a far cry from 2008, when the Dolphins — 0-2 at the time — incorporated the Wildcat at the suggestion of quarterbacks coach David Lee and shocked the Patriots, 38-13, in Week 3, out-gaining them 461-215.

Former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison told The Ringer’s Kevin Clark that it was the only time during his six years there that the Patriots were unprepared for something.

“The NFL was vanilla ball then. No one was used to seeing this,” tight end David Martin told The Ringer.

As receiver Greg Camarillo told Clark: “The feeling I got was, ‘This was either going to be awesome or a total disaster,’ and no one really knew which one it would be until the moment we ran the play against New England. We are either going to get laughed at or lead SportsCenter.”

Teams appear far better equipped to defend the formation now than a decade ago, in part because they’ve seen it more. Buffalo blitzed the formation with success against the Dolphins Sunday.

And Adam Gase’s attempts to catch teams off balance with the Wildcat this year — initially with a couple plays with Albert Wilson and a handful with Ballage — haven’t yet paid dividends.

Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said there was a “mental error” by a teammate of Ballage on one play and doesn’t blame Ballage for the modest Wildcat yards: “He is doing a good job. His vision has been good. We have to help him out.”

Loggains said using the play requires opposing teams to take time to prepare for it.

Ballage ran the Wildcat 70 times at Arizona State and had considerable success. He also threw four times out of the Wildcat, completing three for 30 yards and a touchdown to tight end Kody Kohl.

But he hasn’t attempted a Wildcat pass with the Dolphins.

Ballage grew up admiring Ronnie Brown and watched clips of that Patriots game in 2008.

“Ronnie was good,” Ballage said. “He was extremely good in college and the NFL. An extremely talented guy. Obviously, if I can do it as good as he used to do it, then it would turn out well. I’ve always been a big fan of Ronnie Brown. I’ve never met him. That would be something cool to work out. I’d like to meet him.”

As for the 2008 game, Patriots coach Bill Belichick had little use for reminiscing in a conference call this week.

“Good game for Miami,” Belichick said. “It wasn’t a good game for us. Lot of water under the bridge since then. They’ve run that formation [this year], but there are a lot of new people now that we have to defend and worry about that weren’t any part of that game.”


Gase refused to answer when asked if cornerback Xavien Howard has had knee surgery. “We just have to see how fast of a healer he is,” Gase said.

He said Howard watched practice as an observer Thursday and wasn’t on crutches. Gase has said he expects him to play again at some point this season.

Guard/center Jake Brendel, who missed nearly all of training camp and the first eight games of the season with a calf injury, re-injured the calf this week and did not participate in practice Thursday.

Brendel started two games at left guard before playing center last week in place of injured Travis Swanson.

Swanson, who has an ankle injury, remained limited in practice Thursday, though Gase said he looks healthier. If Swanson and Brendel aren’t healthy enough to play, Wesley Johnson and Ted Larsen would be the options to play center and guard.

Receiver Danny Amendola (knee) also remained limited Thursday, but Gase said the fact he was “able to run routes and practice [was] encouraging. We’ll see how he feels” Friday.

Kenny Stills was named the Dolphins’ nominee for the Walton Payton Man of the Year. award. Stills has done at least one community service event every week this season.

“I want to use the time I have on Earth the best way possible,” he said. “If you do a good deed a day, you can change the world.”

Gase praised linebacker Kiko Alonso but also said this: “Sometimes he has to find that right place where it’s that emotion amped up for the game and being able to kind of hyper-focus on his job. That’s where sometimes he puts himself in a bad position. It’s almost like he’s too emotional and he’s going so fast. That’s where he’s made mistakes in the past. It’s like finding that fine line.”

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