Throughout the 2010-2011’ season, Mike Wallace was easily one of the best wide receivers in the National Football League. During these two years, Wallace caught for 2,450 yards and eighteen touchdowns. Wallace’s greatest attribute was his speed. His ability to burn past the defenders and score touchdowns quickly made him one of the most beloved athletes in Pittsburgh.
It’s funny how quick the judgment on Wallace has changed. After the 2011 season, Wallace decided to hold out of training camp, only to report a couple of weeks before the start of the season. Things continued to digress for the star wide out after he struggled for a large part of the season. In fifteen games, Wallace caught just sixty-four balls for 836 yards. The biggest problem with Wallace was his knack for dropping the football.
His poor commitment to the team, mixed with his lack-luster play on the field had Steeler fans counting down the days until Wallace was no longer wearing the sacred black and gold. Pittsburgh fans got their wish when the Miami Dolphins signed Wallace shortly after the start of the 2013 Free Agency period. Miami gave Wallace a five-year, sixty million dollar contract, guaranteeing him thirty million dollars. The move made Wallace one of the highest paid receivers in the game. The only question remaining is, was the signing worth it?
The two main reasons why Miami gave Wallace such an enormous contract was to surround Ryan Tannehill with speed at the receiver position and to help open up the field for the offense. While Wallace gave Tannehill a great option down the field, the two often struggled to connect. With such a poor success rate, many wondered what the main problem was. The answer is simple: Ryan Tannehill struggles with the deep ball (finished in the bottom ten in deep ball accuracy at just 32.8%).
Still, despite Tannehill’s inconsistent deep ball, you would think that Wallace would still be the team’s leading receiver, right? Wrong. Wallace finished the season behind Brian Hartline with 930 receiving yards and a career low five touchdowns. It was clear that throughout last season, Wallace was not even the number one guy on the roster.
So what does Mike Wallace need to do this offseason to assure that the past two seasons have been an honest fluke? Again, the answer is pretty obvious: continue practicing with Ryan Tannehill. According to the Dolphins coaching staff and personnel, Tannehill has indeed improved his deep ball with Wallace this offseason. The only problem is all of these “big plays” in practice have come when the media is unable to attend. When practice was open to the media, the tandem would occasionally misfire.
Still, Wallace is confident heading into this season. The good news is he isn’t the only one who feels that way. Head coach Joe Philbin recently praised Wallace, saying he “had a really good offseason program,” and that he is “out there working and doing the little things that can make the difference when the season comes around.”
Wallace is not only expecting a big year out of himself, but the entire offense as well. As long as his relationship continues to progress with Tannehill — which apparently it has –there is no reason to think otherwise. “I feel like we’ve been doing really well,” when asked about his progress with Tannehill. “Pretty much every day, we’ve pretty much been on the same page. Might have one here or there, but, for the most part, I think we’ve been doing a really good job being on the same page.”
Making sure Wallace and Tannehill are on the same page heading into this season will play a crucial role in the Dolphins success. Last season, the offense struggled at times, ultimately causing this team a shot at the playoffs. In the last two games of the season, the offense was only able to score seven points — costing them a shot at the playoffs. Things need to change this year or else change will be inevitable.