By Kristian Dyer
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Mission already accomplished for the Wildcat.
All offseason, there was speculation about how big of a role the Wildcat and quarterback Tim Tebow would play in the Jets’ offense. It was rumored that Tebow would be featured prominently, taking away snaps from starter Mark Sanchez to run the Wildcat.
But on Sunday during a 48-28 romp of the Bills, Tebow was on the field in the Wildcat just eight times.
The resulting five carries for 11 yards was not exactly the headline-grabbing stuff many expected. But truth be told, the Wildcat was doing its job all week long.
Bills head coach Chan Gailey admitted last week in a conference call with the New York media that he didn’t know what to expect from the Wildcat, how it would be utilized or how many times it would be run during the game. The result was uncertainty from Buffalo, who had to prepare for the Wildcat and the conventional Jets offense. It looked unprepared to stop either.
The same might well be said come Sunday in Pittsburgh. This Wednesday it was Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin who could offer no definitive answers about what he expects from the Jets offense on Sunday. He’s uncertain about the Wildcat and how the Jets will implement it, but he knows he has to be ready for it.
In other words, Tomlin has to scheme and game prep for a Wildcat that could be utilized in large doses against his team, or could be a sprinkling like seen against the Bills. Either way, valuable practice time is being utilized preparing for a package that no one really knows just how much of it will be rolled out against the Steelers.
And Sanchez is the one set to benefit the most from all of this. With all the focus on what Tebow’s role is going to be, his part in the offense is flying under the radar.
Sanchez’s last trip to Pittsburgh was in January of 2011 when the Jets lost the AFC Championship game and it wasn’t a sparkling game for the offense. He was rather ordinary that day, going 20-for-33 for 261 yards and two touchdowns, often looking rattled and failing to be on the same page with his wide receivers against a tough Steelers defense in front of a hostile crowd. Making matters worse, the Jets only had 70 yards rushing that day and just two first downs from the ground game, both are issues which need to be remedied two years later if the Jets hope to start this season 2-0.
The beauty of the intrigue and all the secrecy around the Wildcat is that it becomes a talking point and something to fixate on. There is something unique to the offense that can’t be handled effectively without dedicating time and energy and effort to stopping it. A scheme like that requires snaps in practice – snaps that can and should be going towards game prep for Sanchez instead are being dedicated towards Tebow.
In this way, the Wildcat is already an unquestioned success, especially against a Steelers defense that was tops in the league last year. It is a competitive advantage for the Jets that other teams must now use precious practice time in focusing on the Wildcat. Diverting the energy, effort and focus of the defense away from the likes of Sanchez, Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill and the stable of running backs is a positive for the Jets.
And if they get something, anything from the Wildcat on Sunday, it will be merely icing on the cake.
There is no doubt that at some point this season, whether it is Week 2 in Pittsburgh or next week against San Francisco or weeks away, the Wildcat will be effective. Tebow and the package will break a big play or two and unsettle things even further. But for right now, Pittsburgh is having to balance both Sanchez and Tebow in its agenda for the week, from practice reps to film study and everything in between.
Kristian R. Dyer covers the NFL and college football for Metro New York and contributes to Yahoo! Sports as well as WFAN. He can be followed on Twitter @KristianRDyer.
Do you think Tebow’s presence will actually help Sanchez get to that next level? Be heard in the comments below!