As we’ve progressed through the first 8 games of the season, we’ve seen the Dolphins players line up with a great deal of flexibility. Miami has lined up various personnel packages with their personnel deployed to various locations throughout the field on offense. Wide receivers Brian Hartline, Brandon Gibson and Rishard Matthews have lined up wide left, in the slot left, slot right. Charles Clay and Michael Egnew have lined up in various positions in the backfield, at tight end, split out and in the slot. Dion Sims has lined up at tight end, in the slot right and in the slot to the left. Running backs Daniel Thomas, Lamar Miller and Marcus Thigpen have lined up in the backfield, split out and in the slot. These players are lining up with the versatility of Jim “Crash” Jensen, a former Dolphins legend. Even Will Yeatman is getting in on the act, sneaking in as a tight end this past week, though he is a lineman.
The personnel on the field is being deployed in such a way that opposing defenses have to account for where they are lining up even and with mismatches being created as the players are deployed unexpectedly. Opponents have to scan the team and make adjustments to where Miami’s personnel are deployed, but aside from where Ryan Tannehill is lined up, there is one man they can count on to be where they expected. Miami’s $60 million, big play threat will be out there on “Wallace Island” – a destination that it appears is never-changing. Located fifteen to twenty yards off the coast of the right side of Miami’s offensive line, the one thing defenses can count on is where to find him on every play, making that one less adjustment required against Miami’s offense.
Equally disturbing facts about “Wallace Island,” Wallace has been on the field for more snaps than any player in the offense outside of John Jerry, Mike Pouncey and Ryan Tannehill. Three fifths of the offensive line have been on the field less than the star receiver, and if you compound that with the lack of flexibility from the star receiver it appears that there may be deeper issues with Wallace being able to line up anywhere else, having been on the field for ninety-five percent of the teams snaps. Wallace has eight drops so far this season, with only one touchdown and only two games where he has caught over fifty percent of the passes thrown his direction. The drops are especially troubling, as he is one drop away from his career high for a season here at the midpoint. Some of this can be attributed to the struggles he has had finding timing and chemistry with Ryan Tannehill. Additionally, four of Ryan Tannehill’s passes thrown Wallace’s way have also gone for interceptions.
While we’re examining Wallace’s positioning for every snap he’s on the field in any formational or personnel deployment, the patterns being run by Wallace also keep him to the right side of the field. This means that, even though Tannehill hasn’t always had the most time to throw this season, the patterns being run by Wallace are not taking him across the field. A number of these have taken him to the middle of the field, but as far as being targeted in the pattern? Wallace is sticking to the right there as well.
Why? Is Wallace incapable of comprehending an offense that so many other players seem able to? Is he struggling not only with drops, but with expanding his repertoire with the routes to run from the slot or even split to the right side? Has he claimed his spot on the field in diva fashion and refused to move? This is unclear. What is clear is that it appears this is another aspect of the offense that Mike Sherman has not been deploying to its maximum value (i.e. the running game) thus far. If Sherman wants to save his job this season, not only does he need to continue with the balanced attack, but he needs to move Wallace around the field.
Watching the Bengals last night, you see true number one receiver AJ Green deployed all over the field. Watch any number one receiver in the NFL and you’ll see teams moving them around the field, attempting to create nightmares, confusion and mismatches for the opposing defense. It’s high time that Miami did that not only with the rest of their personnel, but with their supposed greatest vertical threat as well. They need to move him around the field and keep defenses guessing. Who knows, he might even catch the ball with greater frequency from the left.