Should The Miami Dolphins Start Over At WR?


Yesterday Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said in reference to Mike Wallace‘s future “no body knows”. It’s a decision that will weigh heavy on the mind of Dennis Hickey over the next month. For the Dolphins however Mike Wallace is just one player on the unit that perhaps should see a complete overhaul.

The Dolphins have the most expensive wide-receiver unit in the NFL and they grossly underperformed. Make your argument for lack of protection for Tannehill or his consistency and accuracy but the fact remains the Dolphins wide-receiver unit is not very good.

To look at the wide-outs you would think they would be far better than they were. Mike Wallace is a pedigree top WR who will likely see his playing potential rise once he leaves Miami. Brian Hartline was coming off two consecutive 1,000 yard seasons with over 130 receptions, and Brandon Gibson had shown flashes of being a top slot guy. Add the depth of Rishard Matthews and rookie Jarvis Landry and the Dolphins should have been a feared offense.

Instead we got a 13th ranked receiving unit that also included reception stats by running backs and tight-ends. In other words it should have been better. Is that enough however to retool the unit or even rebuild it?

On the surface it is not but you have to consider a few other factors as well. Joe Philbin is trying to build a team first mentality and frankly that takes Mike Wallace out of the picture. Wallace’s well known and well publicized end of season issues have thrust him into a questionable return despite a salary that borders $6-9 million in cap hit if released or traded. Then there is Brandon Gibson who is in the teams doghouse for his antics following the Jets loss with Wallace’s post-game interview and his antics on the field that cost the team penalty yards and his drop in play.

Brian Hartline is no longer the go-to guy in Miami for Ryan Tannehill as he has been replaced by Jarvis Landry who runs the slot routes. Hartline is still sure handed but his yards after catch are pretty terrible and he is not a threat in the red-zone. Add to that his over $5 million salary and his declining play and it’s yet another player on the unit that could be and maybe should be gone.

The issue is there is no one ready to step up outside of Landry. Matt Hazel is not a projected one or two receiver and at his best will be a slot receiver. Rishard Matthews had shown promise but he is not a favorite of Joe Philbin due to off-field issues and his detrimental unsportsmanlike penalty. Matthews has been late to meetings and more and could find himself on the outs this off-season.

If the Dolphins part ways with Wallace, Hartline, Gibson, and Matthews and there is a good possibility they could, the team would immediately decimate the receiving corp of the offense and that is something they can’t really build up for next season, a big season for the future of this teams coaching staff.

It’s unknown if releasing these players is conducive to winning as it simply cripples Bill Lazor’s offense and stunts the development of Ryan Tannehill. That being said if there is animosity in the locker room, on the side line, or a belief that the team can not get better with players that may not be 100% in to what is being built, or trying to be built, then regardless of what your situation is you need to make those changes.

I would suspect that two of the five players will not be on the team next  year and my initial thoughts would be Rishard Matthews and Brandon Gibson but those are the easier choices to make in this group. While I do believe that Mike Wallace will return for 2015 the same can not be said about Brian Hartline.