The Dolphins' use of the wildcat has been well documented. By now we've seen all the stats, we know the dangerous players in the scheme - Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, and to a lesser extent, Pat White - and we know the Dolphins plan to use it a lot. Coming into this game against the Dolphins in Miami, how the Saints defend the wildcat will determine the outcome.
The only real exposure the Saints have had to the wildcat this season was facing the Eagles in week 2. The Eagles employed the wildcat early and often in an effort to provide some relief for backup quarterback and spot starter Kevin Kolb. Unfortunately for the Eagles, the Saints got out to a big lead in the second half, which forced the Eagles to abandon the heavy run and clock draining formation. That said, the Saints did not do a great job of stopping it when it was used. Fast forward to Sunday, the Saints will face off against a team that executes the wildcat better than anyone in the league. As evidenced by their last game (Monday Night week 5 hosting the Jets), the Fins rely on the wildcat heavily and aren't afraid to commit to it almost entirely with the game on the line. Simply put: it's what they do best and of all the teams they've played so far this season, only the Ravens have had any success in stopping it. While the Saints defense is vastly improved, I don't think comparisons to the Ravens have been earned quite yet.
What makes this such an interesting matchup is that the Dolphins' key to winning this game is controlling the clock and pounding the football on the ground. This would, in turn, keep the Saints' potent offense off the field and minimize their chances to score. It turns out the Dolphins are number one in the NFL running the football, but the Saints' run defense isn't shabby either, ranking fifth.
So how do the Saints stop the wildcat? To me, the two key players for the Saints are Roman Harper and Jonathan Vilma. Those two players are the Saints' most athletic playmakers in the box and their tackling ability in this game will prove instrumental. It looks like Scott Fujita will be absent from this one, so you can expect the Dophins to go right at Troy Evans. Harper's ability to play up in the box and make an impact as well as Vilma's lateral movement and sideline to sideline pursuit will be crucial in helping out Evans. While Remi Ayodele has played decent football and has recently been anointed as the starter at defensive tackle alongside Sedrick Ellis, expect the Dolphins to attack him as well. It's clear that Evans and Ayodele are the weaknesses in the Saints' defense, and the positions they play are ideal for the Dolphins' wildcat to attack. That's not to say Sedrick Ellis, Scott Shanle, Charles Grant, Will Smith etc. won't need to play very sound defense, respecting their assignment within the defensive scheme, but to me Harper and Vilma are the two players that have the power to shut down the Dolphins' offense, or allow it to run wild.
How do you guys think Vilma and Harper will perform, respectively?