Run, T-Jack, run. No, wait -- throw. We don't know what he'll do. Nobody will . . .
Tarvaris Jackson is being paid nearly $700,000 this season to balance a clipboard. And while T-Jack has no doubt made a legitimate case for said role, there would seem to be opportunities for the maligned back-up to flourish in the NFL's latest copycat trend, the Wildcat offense.
In baseball, a forkball continues to dive. In hockey, a slapshot will forever scream. In basketball, there are just so many ways to dunk. But the NFL trends offenses more than Lindsay Lohan changes sunglasses.
In Week 3 of this NFL season, the Miami Dolphins readily usurped and alarmed the New England Patriots with the Wildcat formation, a variation of the single-wing set that found Ronnie Brown running in three scores and tossing for another in the Dolphins' 38-13 upset.
The formation, created by football luminary Pop Warner, basically creates confusion for opposing defensives via a direct snap to one of two running backs (or skill players) in the backfield, with the quarterback eschewed to lining up in a slot position, if on the field at all. Dolphins' quarterback coach David Lee (video below), recently found great success with the formation at the collegiate level in Arkansas with direct snaps to two-time Heisman runner-up and current Oakland Raider, Darren McFadden.
In the Wildcat, the offense can gain the advantages of an extra blocker, and creates seams in the defense via, in short, four different play options: fake halfback dive into running back sweep; halfback dive; play-action (seam) pass; play-action halfback pass.
Given the Vikings' ineptitude in their passing offense, they would seem a fine candidate to join the ranks of the ten-plus teams that have employed the Wildcat with success in '08. Gus Frerotte, although 5-3 as a starter, sports the league's 25th "best" passer rating at 76.6, and the Purple seem truly desperate to add a non-A.P./Chester Taylor dimension to scoring points.
T-Jack would seem a truly fine candidate for the Wildcat, given both his overt running skill and acceptable passing tools. Despite his well-documented struggles, he has run for 4 TD's and averaged 5 yards-per-carry in his brief, albeit inauspicious career. His presence in the formation would, if nothing else and for no need of a more technical term -- switch things up. Especially this weekend against Jacksonville.
These are not your older brother's Jacksonville Jaguars, the traditionally cruel defensive unit that has ranked in the league's top 11 in run defense in four of the last five years. The '08 Jags are 20th in the NFL in rush defense, allowed nearly 114 yards per game on the ground. Of further note is their potential familiarity with the Minnesota mindset. Former Viking Pro Bowl linebacker Jack Del Rio is the Jags' head coach, former Viking player and skip Mike Tice is his assistant, and one-time Purple d-back Brian Williams starts on defense. In addition, former Minnesota first-round pick Troy Williamson, while inactive, has elected to play this week with his mouth.
The predictability of what dicates the Vikings' offensive success is overt and known to all. A little Wildcat, and a little T-Jack could change that should the Purple have an interest in showing their fans -- and the league -- that they're more than a talented 5-5 bunch looking for Green Bay and Chicago to lose each week. Besides, next year, the trend will reverse, as it's perennially wont to do, and the Wildcat will be gone.
For a little chalk talk, here's the aforementioned coach Lee, back when he was with Arkansas, providing a little more detail on how the Wildcat can be utilized: