Reverse quarterback pass from the wildcat

During this year’s preseason, the Miami Dolphins have continued to show wrinkles off their wildcat offense. Against the Dolphins they resuscitated a play they used last season: the quarterback pass off the wildcat look.

Speed sweep from the wildcat

Speed sweep from the wildcat

The base wildcat begins with (1) an “unbalanced line,” meaning that both tackles line up to one side of the field, (2) the runningback aligned as quarterback, with another runner split wide who goes in motion to either take a “jet sweep” handoff or to fake doing so, and (3) the quarterback splits wide. Now, the quarterback could just leave the game, but leaving him in fakes out the defense and its personnel substitution. If you always took the QB out, the D would put in extra run stuffers. This helps keep them honest.

The defense, unsurprisingly, will often adjust by attacking the line to stop the run plays. Now, the Wildcat’s first counters involve being able to hit either the jet sweep, a run off the tackle and up the gut, or a cutback/counter play to the weakside. Yet sometimes this alone isn’t enough. Enter the QB reverse pass:

For an excellent breakdown of this play, check out the NFL’s website here, complete with video. (Sorry, the video cannot be embedded.)

This play is not brand new, however. The video above shows the Dolphins using it last season, and David Lee, former Arkansas-OC and current Dolphins QB coach, used this play at least as far back as 2007. This is a big reason why the Dolphins were unafraid of showing the Wildcat again in the preseason — may as well let teams know it will be going back to the well this year, with a play it had used before.

What will be used this year? Time will tell. (Ht CoachHuey.)

  • Tim

    Chris, I can’t watch videos at work. Help me procrastinate and also soothe my OCD by including a quick diagram if the only explanation of a play is in video form. 🙂

  • Jon


    Jet sweep, handoff to the motion man to the right. QB is lined up wide to the right and runs reverse behind the jet sweeper, who pitches it to him.

    The WR who was in the slot just runs a post.

    Vs the panthers the safety flew down when he saw jet sweep and the post was wide open behind him.

  • To me, the obvious next wrinkle in the Wildcat is to take advantage of the pass-eligible status of the left tackle. The base Wildcat formation has a “twins over”look on top of the unbalanced line making the backside tackle technically the tight end on that side. I’d tell my defense to watch for a tight end checking into that position. I’d imagine they’d run something like the above motion – with everything going right – and then just flick it back to the left. It make make for an excellent goalline play out of the Wildcat.

  • Joel


    I’ve seen the play you describe. I think it was Boise st. It was not out of the wildcat just a trick formation. They made the tight end “look” like the left tackle.

  • Co-ach

    The Dolphins have already ran a naked off of the jet/fly sweep. They ran the TE on corner and dragged the backside WR. TD vs NE

    Here is a link:

  • Co-ach has the video. There’s a lot of directions you can go off this. I’m waiting for an NFL team to work in the shovel or speed option off the Wildcat. Maybe jet sweep to the right, bring the slot receiver on the right (or line him up as an H-back) and bring him on a shovel the other way, and pull a guard. The QB/RB/Wildcat back fakes the jet then steps out like he’s bootlegging to the backside, and has the option of dropping off the shovel pass inside.

  • Co-ach

    You can see on the clip of the naked that the upback (we call him the fullback in our system) runs underneath the line. There could very easily be a shovel to him.

    We have a play with an option pitch from the fly sweep. After the exchange the widest WR backpeddles and gets into pitch relation with the sweep. This is usually were most teams keep their QB. Defenses are so wreckless in getting to the the sweep that they ignore this option and has resulted in big plays for us.

  • Thanks for the link on the TE corner. Personally, I’d roll away from the TE to force the defense to stretch horizontally as much as possible, but I can see how rolling toward the TE would make the pass easier.

  • Ram

    Minor editorial nit – I believe the second sentence of this article should read “Against the Panthers they resuscitated…” instead of “Against the Dolphins they resuscitated…”

    I just found your site via your NYTimes “The Fifth Down” entry. I appreciate the smart football analysis. There is not enough of this type of topical writing being done. Keep it up, and thanks!