When the Miami Dolphins made Mike Wallace their highest paid player on the team I liked the move. It was aggressive, it filled a major hole on the team, it made sense. Wallace is a speed guy and his presence would open up the Dolphins offense. It literally was perfect timing.
We all knew that Wallace had his problems and some felt the 60 million dollar contract was far from worth the goods that Jeff Ireland was buying. He didn’t run full speed on every play. He didn’t often make the tough catch. When Brandon Marshall was here it was the same issue. Marshall suffered from a lack of concentration due in part to having no relationship with his QB, HC, or even his OC. Wallace was getting a ticket punched and it should have been enough to make him better.
That hasn’t been the case.
Some will point out and rightfully so that Wallace isn’t used the way he should be. 100% correct. Wallace has world class speed but speed doesn’t have to be fly patterns down the side line. In fact, a ten yard sprint and curl will pull your coverage 100% of the time. They simply can’t take a risk of being beat long so they will overrun the route. Miami hasn’t played to that weakness and Wallace isn’t selling his short routes. Still others will point out that he doesn’t have a QB with a strong enough arm to get him the ball. That too may have some truth to it.
Ryan Tannehill is a timing QB and the deep ball is his Achilles heal. He struggles with putting the ball over Wallace and allowing him to run underneath it. While Tannehill has been making those mistakes, Wallace is making cardinal sins. He isn’t helping his young QB at all.
Wallace has said that he wants to be a Hall of Fame WR. I’m hear to say that will never happen until he changes the way he plays the game. No WR in the Hall of Fame has gotten to that stage of their career with the assistance of a QB. WR’s make the job of a QB easy. HOF WR’s catch the ball and they fight for the ball. Wallace can do one with a little consistency but he does the other not at all.
It’s a recurring theme this year. When Tannehill throws a ball to Wallace regardless of whether it is short, deep, slant, or fly, Wallace catches it only if the ball is directly to him. If he has to fight for the ball he simply will not. Yesterday Tannehill threw a short ball to a wide-open Wallace deep down the field and Wallace made no attempt to try and go higher than the defender. It’s something he does on a game by game basis. He does not use his frame, his muscle, or his body to fend off defenders in coverage.
Calvin Johnson will fight for his QB and take the shots to win the downfield battle on an under thrown ball. A.J. Green will do the same. As will Dez Bryant, Victor Cruz, and Brandon Marshall. Mike Wallace? He won’t so much as change his route, stop his route, or jump for the ball. He simply doesn’t get it.
Spoiled in Pittsburgh perhaps? The Steelers used him almost always downfield and with Ben Roethlisberger at the QB spot Wallace found it simply a foot race to the end zone. Now he has to do a little more work in his new system and it appears that he would much rather complain about the touches than to make his QB believe that he want’s to be the go-to-guy. Unfortunately, he is overshadowed by Brian Hartline and Rishard Mathews. Why? Because they give 100% effort on every pass thrown their way. Wallace gives 100% when he knows he can catch it without effort.
Perhaps something will trigger in his head and the light will come on. Maybe it won’t and two years from now he will be ousted from the Dolphins and simply be another in a long line of high dollar mistakes. The saddest part in all of this is that Wallace does indeed have the talent to be top NFL WR. He has the speed, the hands, and with a little more work the route running ability. He lacks the mental ability to take his game into his own hands and make himself great.
Ryan Tannehill may pass for 4,000 yards this season as he is projected just under. It would be the first Miami QB since Dan Marino to do it and Mike Wallace is a small part of that number.
Wallace can’t be great and he won’t be until he stops waiting for someone else to deliver his stats for him.