Around the League  

 

Is Mike Wallace a free-agent flop for Miami Dolphins?

Although Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin promised to expand Mike Wallace's role after a one-catch performance in the season opener, the big-ticket free-agent acquisition has been a high-profile flop through eight weeks.

Wallace is third in the NFL in drops, with seven. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has completed 48.4 percent of his attempts to Wallace this season, compared to 65.2 percent to all other Dolphins.

CHARGERS AT BRONCOS
Thursday, Dec. 12, 8 p.m. ET
Watch on NFL Network and NFL.com/LIVE

Watch on NFL Mobile with a Verizon premium subscription.

Thursday Night Football Xtra
Download Thursday Night Football Xtra for a second screen experience while you watch the game.

Play TNF Challenge
Pick the game score and the players from each matchup you think will score the most fantasy points. Compete with friends and experts. Win a trip to the Pro Bowl.

On Thursday's edition of "Around The League Live," NFL Media's Kurt Warner suggested that Philbin's early-season adjustment to Wallace's route tree is one of the primary reasons for the receiver's struggles.

"Mike Wallace is a guy that stretches the field. A guy that you have to use to his strengths," Warner opined. "You can see plays like that, where he's not the most consistent guy in catching the underneath routes, or even running them and feeling comfortable in it. So you really have to push him down the field.

"The Dolphins are trying to get all that money out of him by using him in ways that I don't think he can thrive, and now everybody's disappointed because of that."

To Warner's point, Wallace was arguably the NFL's most dangerous deep threat over a 12-game stretch from 2010 to 2011, when he reeled off nine 100-yard games. In 36 games since, he's reached 100 yards just five times. He's been held under 50 yards in nearly half of those 36 games.

Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman agrees with Warner, conceding that Wallace needs more deep-ball opportunities than he's received in the season's first half.

The resurrection of Wallace's stalled career isn't as simple as dialing up more go routes, however.

There's reason to believe his early-career success was merely a byproduct of his skills meshing in a perfect storm of former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians' vertical offense and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's downfield gambles.

Wallace's catch percentage on passes of more than 20 yards has progressively declined from 44.4 percent in 2009 to 27.3 percent this season. Over the past two seasons, his 33.7 is the second-worst percentage on throws of more than 10 yards. Those numbers are even bleaker over the past four games with Tannehill.

One concern we've picked up, via Game Rewind, is Wallace simply doesn't compete for passes in traffic like true No. 1 receivers. Throw in an "expansion-level" offensive line that doesn't allow Tannehill time to set up and launch downfield strikes, and you have the recipe for a failed deep threat.

Until the Dolphins can find ways to scheme Wallace free from coverage and protect Tannehill, his best bet for production is on bubble screens, slants and crossing routes that take advantage of his run-after-catch ability.

It's not a recipe for $60 million worth of production, but it's a move in the right direction.

We handed out our Midseason Hero Awards in the latest "Around The League" Podcast.

Fan Discussion

NFL News
CONTENT
15