Wildcat formation describes a formation for the offense in football in which the ball is snapped not to the quarterback but directly to a player of another position lined up at the quarterback position. (In most systems, this is a running back, but some playbooks have the wide receiver, fullback, or tight end taking the snap.) The Wildcat features an unbalanced offensive line and looks to the defense like a sweep behind zone blocking. A player moves across the formation prior to the snap. However, once this player crosses the position of the running back who will receive the snap, the play develops unlike the sweep.
Relying on the experience of quarterbacks coach David Lee who had run the scheme at Arkansas, the 2008 Miami Dolphins under Henning implemented the wildcat offense beginning in the third game of the 2008 season with great success, instigating a wider trend throughout the NFL. The Dolphins started the wildcat trend in the NFL lining up either running back Ronnie Brown (in most cases) or Ricky Williams to take a shotgun snap with the option of handing off, running, or throwing. Through eleven games, the wildcat averaged over seven yards per play for the Dolphins. “It could be the single wing, it could be the Delaware split buck business that they used to do,” Dolphins offensive coordinator Dan Henning said. “It comes from all of that.” On September 21, 2008, the Miami Dolphins used the wildcat offense against the New England Patriots on six plays, which produced 5 touchdowns (four rushing and one passing—from Ronnie Brown himself) in a 38–13 upset victory.