Written by Steven Wilson | Twitter: @stevenjwilson11
Known as one of the fastest receivers in the NFL, Mike Wallace was one of the biggest free agent additions the Miami Dolphins had in 2013. Fast-forward more than a year and the sixth-year pro is reminding everyone why he is such a valuable commodity.
“I think Mike is practicing [and] working hard,” said Offensive Coordinator Bill Lazor. “I think he’s playing aggressively on the field, and some of his red zone touchdowns we’ve seen him go up in contested plays and get the ball. I don’t think you can underestimate that because in the red zone, it’s going to have to be contested catches.”
Through six games, No. 11 has as many touchdowns this year as he did in all of 2013. Tannehill and Wallace have connected 30 times for 359 yards and five scores. Lazor believes their success has stemmed from hard work in practice.
“I think Mike Wallace has practiced really well,” Lazor stated this week. “We talked early in the year with all of our players. When we sit down to put our red zone gameplan in, what’s fresh on the coach’s mind is how you practiced that day and the day before.”
After signing a five-year, $60-million deal on March 12, 2013 to become Miami’s go-to wide receiver, Wallace automatically felt the heat to perform. He’s had that chip on his shoulder to prove his critics wrong ever since, but his hard work in practice is starting to pay dividends on the field.
“Coaches kind of have to put their name on plays, ‘Hey, I think this play would be good in the red zone,’” Lazor stated. “If you are out there practicing and going hard, it’s kind of easy to kind of put things in and give you an option.”
Understanding the fluidity of the game, Miami’s offensive coordinator knows play options and reads for his young quarterback can change in a matter of seconds.
“Sometimes you are the first option on a play,” Lazor continued, “you get all excited, and then you go into the game and you catch the ball and you are the third option.”
That’s exactly what happened in the second quarter this past Sunday against Chicago. Tannehill dropped back and scanned the field for an open target. He looked past two covered receivers before throwing to the back-right pylon. Mike Wallace was there. Working the end-line, the 6-foot, 200-pound wideout found separation and bounced to the outside to catch his fifth touchdown of the year.
“I thought he ran the route very well,” Lazor admitted. “I didn’t see the TV copy, so I don’t know if there was (a replay), but I thought he ran the route very well. I thought it was a good example of him and Ryan getting on the same page and Ryan anticipating the throw. He threw it before (Mike) was out of the break, so we were pretty happy with that play.”
With just a year-and-a-half of experience playing together, Tanehill to Wallace could become a more common moniker in the NFL for years to come.