Bills unveil wildcat in practice

Updated: August 25, 2010, 12:45 PM ET
Associated Press

PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- With rookie running back C.J. Spiller's dynamic potential and first-year coach Chan Gailey's reputation as an offensive innovator, it was only a matter of time before the Buffalo Bills tried out the wildcat.

With a little secrecy, the Bills unveiled their version of the option-style formation in practice this week.

"It's an interesting proposition," Gailey said. "We're not so polished in one area that we can just stay in that and beat people. We're going to have to consider everything."

The Bills offense could use any type of spark it can find after finishing no better than 25th in the NFL in yards gained each of the past seven seasons.

Gailey was hired in January in part because of his extensive expertise on offense. As the Pittsburgh Steelers' coordinator in the mid-1990s, Gailey was credited with developing "The Slash" offense to suit quarterback Kordell Stewart, a multitalented rusher, receiver and passer.

The wildcat has its similarities. It's a single-wing formation with the snap going directly to a running back lined up in a shotgun position. The player then has the option to hand off the ball, run it himself or make a pass.

The scheme, which gained acclaim when the Dolphins reintroduced it in 2008 to spark their turnaround, has the potential to create diversions by keeping defenses guessing.

Spiller, the Bills' first-round draft pick, has already shown this preseason that his mere presence in the backfield can draw attention. He'll be part of a three-man running back rotation rounded out by Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch.

"It's going to be fun," Jackson said. "There's a lot of possibilities for us to do things."

Jackson's already had success in the wildcat, which the Bills used sparingly last year. Out of the formation, he threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Lee Evans, a play that Jackson already mentioned to Gailey.

"He's made sure I know that he's thrown a touchdown pass," Gailey said. "If we get to that somewhere down the line, then we'll see how it pans out."

Gailey won't say how often he intends to run the wildcat this season. What's evident is the wildcat has its place in the playbook given the number of times the Bills ran it during several portions of practice Monday and Tuesday before closing training camp in suburban Rochester.

Though the practices were open to the public, Bills officials have attempted to keep the wildcat under wraps.

Citing team policy, the Bills informed reporters they were not allowed to film or describe the formations and plays, or report which player lined up behind center. Such information, the Bills said, would be deemed "harmful for competitive purposes" by tipping off opponents.

The policy didn't stop quarterback Trent Edwards, on Tuesday, from divulging Spiller's role in the wildcat.

"It's just another weapon that we have that we can put C.J. in the backfield, direct snap to him and put a lot of pressure on defenses," Edwards said. "It's another creative scheme that Chan has. And that's a credit to him."

Gailey wouldn't rule out using Spiller, saying the player's threat to take off and run creates more gaps along the defense.

Spiller is already expected to be used extensively as both a rusher and receiver.

It's unclear what type of arm Spiller might have because, for Gailey, the key to making the wildcat effective is being able to complete passes out of the formation to prevent defenses from stacking the line against the run.

"You have to be able to have some diversity out of it in order to make something like that work," Gailey said. "You're trying to create some kind of diversion for the defense so they don't know where the ball's going all the time. If you can do that, you've got a chance to create more open spaces for the guy who does have the ball."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press