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How Dolphins WR Mike Wallace proved he's more than just a deep threat vs. Colts

Posted by Erik Frenz  September 17, 2013 08:30 AM

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Whether you have it or not, speed kills.

The Miami Dolphins signed wide receiver Mike Wallace for that very reason.

They didn't have speed. It killed them.

Wallace is more than just a deep threat, though, and he proved it on Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts. There are multiple ways he uses his rare explosiveness, all of them effective. Like any receiver, he has his weaknesses, like we saw against the Cleveland Browns when he was taken out of the game by double coverage and one of the NFL's best young cornerbacks.

If the Dolphins can find ways to put his skill set to good use, though, he can be a weapon for their offense.

Wallace led the league in yards per reception in 2009 (19.4) and ranked second in 2010 (21.0). His 67 receptions of 20 yards or more since 2009 is tied for third in that span.

The Dolphins' need for speed was a given after the trouble the Dolphins faced on offense last season. They racked up 42 pass plays of 20 yards or more, tied for eighth-fewest in the NFL in 2012.

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill's 6.8 yards per pass attempt for the 2012 season was the 11th-lowest among starting quarterbacks, and just 10.5 percent of his pass attempts traveled 20 yards or more beyond the line of scrimmage. According to Pro Football Focus, that was the seventh-lowest percentage in the league last year.

"Your offense is really difficult to watch, because you're trying to manufacture yards without speed," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said of the Dolphins offense in 2012. "There's no vertical threat on a consistent basis. It's almost like watching an offense playing in a red zone for 100 yards, because defenses begin to compress on you."

As it turns out, speed can help even in compressed areas.

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Wallace caught all three of Tannehill's completions on the first drive, including a touchdown on an 18-yard screen.

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He turned on the jets immediately after making the catch, and his speed carried him into the end zone even after contact from the defensive back, but a lot of credit goes to a great blocks by center Mike Pouncey and tackle Tyson Clabo for getting out in front and springing him loose.

Misdirection plays like screens are a perfect way to take advantage of Wallace's track speed; get the defense moving one way, send the receiver bolting the other direction.

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There was no flashy scheme design behind his first catch of the day, no blazing speed. Just Wallace running across the secondary, coming open while his quarterback kept his eyes down the field.

It looked like the rush might get to Tannehill on third down, but he stepped up in the pocket to evade the pressure (as he did many times on Sunday) and delivered a strike to Wallace, who had just come open on his slant route.

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There were three defenders in the area, but Wallace was able to dig down to the ground for the ball and come up with the catch.

It was remarkable how open he was on his biggest reception of the day, a 34-yarder in the third quarter.

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He ran a curl-and-go route lined up wide to the right, and blew past the coverage of Colts cornerback Greg Toler.

The defender gave Wallace a lot of cushion off the line, so he really shouldn't have been beaten deep, but with one subtle move, Wallace created all the separation he needed.

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He faked the curl route at 10 yards off the line of scrimmage, which caused Toler to bite on the route. Wallace then turned back upfield and Toler could do nothing but grab a hold of Wallace's jersey and hope for the best.

With a more on-target pass, Wallace would have scored here. At least now, the Dolphins have officially put the league on notice that the deep threat is, in fact, a threat.

Wallace finished with a team-high nine receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown. A week after he seemed concerned about his role in the offense, he couldn't have been too upset about how things turned out in Indianapolis.

A strong performance against the Colts serves as a perfect complement to a strong outing by wide receiver Brian Hartline against the Cleveland Browns in Week 1. Now, defenses have been put on notice that the Dolphins have two legitimate receiving threats that must be respected.

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About the author

Erik Frenz delivers analysis of the biggest news with the Patriots, including insight into the AFC East and New England's biggest rivals from a Patriots perspective. Erik is an interactive writer who engages his audience in his posts’ comments sections and on Twitter. Readers are encouraged to share their thoughts and ask questions. More »


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