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Declawing a Wildcat

It might only appear for a single play, or perhaps two. Blink and you may miss it. But the Wildcat will most likely appear Sunday at FedEx Field.

The Browns began running their variation of a single-wing offense last season, with receiver Joshua Cribbs under center and QB Derek Anderson split out as a wide receiver. Cribbs, an elusive runner and superb return specialist, is also a former college QB, so he presents the threat of keeping the ball, pitching it to a running back, or throwing an option pass out of the formation. (Miami used its version of this formation with RB Ronnie Brown, under center, handing off to RB Ricky Williams, who flipped the ball to QB Chad Pennington, who had lined up at receiver, with Pennington then throwing a TD pass to Patrick Cobb. Amy Shipley will have more on how Miami uses the offense in tomorrow's paper; up here late tonight)

Cleveland does not use the formation nearly to the extent that the Dolphins do - it's become a primary weapon for the Fins - but it is a wrinkle you have to respect, nonetheless, and certainly a look far outside the norm. Even if it's just one play inside the red zone, if the gadget play results in a touchdown, it can be the difference in the game.

Defensive coordinator Greg Blache said he did not devote an abundance of practice time to the Wildcat this week, running three or four plays with the scout team in practice to give the Skins a feel for what they would see. Blache also uses time early in training camp to work against a few of these strange formations - an empty backfield, etc. - and the Redskins also worked to this end a few years ago, when rookie QB Vince Young and Tennessee were doing these kinds of things.

"We work on a bunch of crazy things from the beginning of training camp," Blache said. "No backs, crazy formations and alignments. We call that the 'zip series' and we have rules that we have against the zip series. So if somebody throws it at us, it's not like it's something our guys haven't seen or worked on at all. But we don't spend a lot of time on it."

Defenders must remain disciplined in their gap and guard against overpursuit. The Skins used practice squad corner Byron Westbrook - brother of Pro Bowl RB Brian Westbrook - as the stand-in for Cribbs in this formation with the scout team. He played at Division III Salisbury, which ran an option, so he was comfortable in the role.

"I know how to read the D end," Westbrook said, in explaining how the "QB" in this offense operates. "And if he comes down hard I take it, and if he comes at me I pitch it. You've got to read the D end."

London Fletcher said that the Redskins have to be prepared for Cribbs to throw out of the formation - even though he has yet to do it this season. "They might give us a new wrinkle out of that formation," he said. "Obviously, the main thing they try to do is run the football out of it. It's his option to hand it off to the running back, or keep it himself. That's his read."

While everyone is generally focused on the ball, should the Browns get in this formation Sunday, try to keep an eye on Anderson. He's a big QB - 6-foot-6, 220 pounds - but still, any time a passer is on the line of scrimmage, unprotected, you've got to try to pound him a bit within the rules.

"That's the one time he's actually not protected by certain rules," Fletcher said, "So ..."

Corner Shawn Springs figures he won't get the shot on Anderson, since he usually is on the slot guy, and not out wide in these situations. Still, there will be a temptation to lay the lumber.

"I'm quite sure everybody who sees that has tried to take a shot on him," Springs said, "but he's probably a lot bigger than most corners think. It ain't like he ain't expecting somebody to try to do that to him."


Note that declawing a Wildcat is kind of like skinning a coyote.

By Jason La Canfora  |  October 17, 2008; 7:53 AM ET
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Next: Guest Blog: What It Takes to Get to the Super Bowl



Posted by: hender_22 | October 17, 2008 8:06 AM | Report abuse

How bout them RED SOX!!!!

Posted by: BeantownGreg | October 17, 2008 8:10 AM | Report abuse

this thing on.....hello.....

Posted by: BeantownGreg | October 17, 2008 8:23 AM | Report abuse

How bout them Orioles.............

Posted by: Yoder-lay-hee-who | October 17, 2008 8:26 AM | Report abuse

I'm telling you, how can you look at the Red Sawx history and not say they have the Rays right where they want them?

On another matter, how much would you like to see Zorn try this offense:

Posted by: CindyBoren | October 17, 2008 8:28 AM | Report abuse

What is going on with Portis? I'm getting a little nervous with him missing practices with this hip flexor. Add on the rush to add a RB this week and I am beginning to wonder. Is this because Betts is hurt or because Betts is hurt and Portis is hurt more than we are being told?I read on CBS sportsline that Alexander may start. Is this true or BS?

Posted by: kmichael76 | October 17, 2008 8:31 AM | Report abuse

Hey gang,

I'm coming up to DC from Florida for the game. With a late kick-off, can you locals suggest a good place to go before the game, to hang with some good fans?

Posted by: MonteColeman | October 17, 2008 8:35 AM | Report abuse

Maybe it was the Sox game last night, but I woke up with a terrible premonition about Sunday. I can't help feeling like our 'Skins are the Rays, holding a 4-1 record with two very winnable games before the bye, and then blowing it.

Maybe it's the 16 or 17 years of watching this team find new ways to lose that's got me. They got me believing with back to back division road wins, then got me scratching my head with that ridiculous loss to the Rams. Somebody help me out here!

Posted by: Schroeder12 | October 17, 2008 8:38 AM | Report abuse

kmichael, I'm not able to access much on the internets and such, but if Alexander were starting, someone on this blog would know about it. That sounds like a case of bullstuff to me....

Posted by: BeantownGreg | October 17, 2008 8:38 AM | Report abuse

Any word on whether Kelly's knee is responding. I would like to see him in action this weekend when I'm 14 rows back in the endzone baby!

Posted by: Yoder-lay-hee-who | October 17, 2008 8:44 AM | Report abuse

Hey gang,

I'm coming up to DC from Florida for the game. With a late kick-off, can you locals suggest a good place to go before the game, to hang with some good fans?

Posted by: MonteColeman | October 17, 2008 8:35 AM | Report abuse

There is no real good place to go before the game even a 4 o'clock kick off because you need to be at the stadium I would say by 1 to avoid the crazy traffic. So I would say go to IHOP in the morning eat breakfast, maybe you will find some good fans there then get to the stadium as early as possible.

Posted by: wstclair | October 17, 2008 8:49 AM | Report abuse

Good article on Landry, tough read him discussing Taylor and how they had just gotten started, tries to let Horton and Moore know about what Sean meant.

Posted by: Stu27 | October 17, 2008 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Question for those in the know:

I'm coming down for the Dallas game, and am thinking about purchasing tickets in the 109 section of the stadium. They seem like good seats, anyone who wants to weigh in on them, I'd appreciate it.

Posted by: BeantownGreg | October 17, 2008 8:55 AM | Report abuse


If you can get to this site, it shows the view from the section.

Posted by: Markin21132 | October 17, 2008 9:05 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: CindyBoren

My Cousin's highschool up in NY is starting to install this A-11 style offence now. He says its a lot of fun to watch them run it. Strikes me that it would be fairly easy to defend against with a drop 10 into a Cover-2/3/4 zone, and have a OLB/DE shadow the QB's. Finally a package that could actually be defended by the UFO. Am I right in understanding that NFL and NCAA rules would prohibit this system?

Posted by: alex35332 | October 17, 2008 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Hey gang,

I'm coming up to DC from Florida for the game. With a late kick-off, can you locals suggest a good place to go before the game, to hang with some good fans?

Posted by: MonteColeman | October 17, 2008 8:35 AM | Report abuse


Your best best is to plan to get to the stadium early (like 1:00) and tailgate. The atmosphere in the parking lot is usually pretty good. It's really all you can do in the area, and traffic gets really bad the closer you get to game time. So it is best to avoid it by getting there early.

Posted by: kjhealey | October 17, 2008 9:19 AM | Report abuse

I interpret the rules the same way, Alex, that it would be prohibited. I posted it as a pure hypothetical because I think it's the kind of thing Zorn would love to muse about.

Posted by: CindyBoren | October 17, 2008 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Does Parcells still call them 'Jap' plays?

Posted by: WaPoLiveFan16 | October 17, 2008 10:24 AM | Report abuse

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