The Tennessee Titans and the single-wing

In the last several months, we’ve had several comments about the Dolphins’ “Wildcat” formation, with some people wondering if it would be something the Titans might use.
 
First, let’s understand what the “Wildcat” is, which is simply Miami’s version of the old single-wing offense. Let a dozen coaches install a single-wing package and they’ll have a dozen different names for it, but they’ll all still be the single-wing.
 
If you’re not familiar with the single-wing, you might benefit from reading a simple explanation of it in this article which I wrote for NFL Outsider last fall. Fans who are already familiar with the single-wing will probably enjoy it also.
 
There are several traits that characterize the single-wing. First, the line is unbalanced. Second, the tailback takes a direct snap from center. And third, a wingback comes in motion, oftentimes reaching the tailback just after he receives the snap.

Two basic plays are usually run from this formation. The first has the tailback running off-tackle. The other basic play is a handoff to the wingback in motion, who runs it outside.
 
Now let’s look at the Titans’ personnel and how they might be used in a single-wing package.
 
If I was Mike Heimerdinger, I’d use Chris Johnson as the tailback. He has the ability to make those off-tackle runs and I’m assuming his hands are good enough to take the snap and make a quick, clean handoff. If he has any ability to throw short-range passes, that’s a bonus.
 
Nate Washington and Rafael Little could both be effective wingbacks. Washington has nine career rushes, presumably all on end-arounds.
 
LenDale White doesn’t have the speed to be a wingback and I doubt if he has the skills required of a single-wing tailback. Scratch him.
 
Most teams that experimented with the single-wing last year split their quarterback out wide. One problem posed with a quarterback is a real Catch-22. You lose the element of surprise if you huddle up without a quarterback. The defense will know what’s coming. But if you do have him on the field, he’s fair game for the defense.
 
Remember when the Jets ran a single-wing play against the Titans? Brett Favre split out wide and then was hit by Cortland Finnegan. That was the last time they used the single-wing, at least in that game. Maybe for the rest of the season. I don’t want Kerry Collins or Vince Young getting hit when Johnson is running an off-tackle play or Washington is running for the corner. The quarterback gets hit enough as it is, though he is somewhat protected by the rulebook when he’s passing. That wouldn’t apply when he was lined up as a receiver.
 
I especially wouldn’t want to see Young as the tailback, running off-tackle. I doubt if Bud Adams wants to see his $56 million investment get hurt doing that. As long as Young runs the ball only when he scrambles, that’s enough.
 
So that means you either leave the quarterback off the field or try to keep him from getting hit. I’m not wild about either option.
 
And when you think about it, using anything out of the ordinary just isn’t Jeff Fisher’s style. He’s conservative, but you can’t fault him for that, especially with the success he’s had. About the most unorthodox thing he’ll do is the occasional fake punt.
 
I just can’t see the Titans using the single-wing at all, unless it’s one of those one-time-only things, just to give future opponents something extra to prepare for.
 
So if you’re the Titans’ offensive coordinator, would you like to use a single-wing package? If so, what would your personnel package be and how would you persuade Fisher to let you do it?
Quantcast