It has been reported by the associated press that the Bills spent their Monday and Tuesday practices working on their wildcat formation. The wildcat, to those of you unfamiliar with it, is a formation in which the ball is snapped directly to the running back, who then has the option to run, hand off to another player, or pass. The wildcat makes a lot of sense for the Bills this season, maybe more than you even know.
First of all, the Buffalo offense has been…offensive the past few seasons. They’ve been finishing in the 25th or worse range for quite a few seasons now, the bottom quarter of the league. The offense has been ultra-conservative, unimaginative, and unproductive. That’s three u’s, which don’t look good on any report card. They’ve struggled in time of possession (that no-huddle experiment was a disaster), yardage, and putting points on the board. You wouldn’t have been crazy to wager that the special teams would score as many touchdowns as the offense the past few seasons.
Secondly, the Bills don’t have a superstar QB on the roster. I like Trent, and am hoping he has a big turnaround season this year in the new offense, but occasionally taking him off the field for the wildcat will not be a travesty.
Next, take a look at the Bills’ running backs. It’s an embarrassment of riches at the moment (Spiller’s exciting potential is making me bite my tongue for now on how it’s a mistake to draft running backs so early). They have Fred Jackson, who led the league in all-purpose yardage a season ago. They have Marshawn Lynch, a tough runner who has twice gone over the 1,000 rushing yard mark in three seasons. With the addition of C.J. Spiller in the backfield, an exciting speedy running back with big-play potential, the Bills have three very good running backs, and it makes sense to try to get them all on the field together.
Here comes the part that may surprise you. Chan Gailey has said in interviews that for the wildcat to be effective, there needs to be a legitimate passing threat out of the formation. The Dolphins’ wildcat has not been quite as effective lately because they were only 2-11 passing out of it last season. While Chan Gailey forbid reporters from giving out the specifics of the wildcat the Bills were practicing (he seems to not be the most ardent supporter of the first amendment after this and the fan incident, though it makes more sense here) he has three pretty good options to line up behind center in this formation. The Bills may have three legitimate passing threats out of the wildcat. Fred Jackson is 1-1 with 27 yards and a 1 touchdown. Marshawn Lynch is 1-1 for 8 yards and a td. C.J. Spiller, who Trent Edwards said has been lining up behind center, at least part of the time in practice, threw three times at Clemson. In his college career, he was 2-3 for 32 yards, and 2 tds. Combined, that’s 4-5 for 67 yards and 4 tds. Those are passing numbers that could make Peyton Manning blush.