In an article that was published on Thursday, I listed the five most irreplaceable players for the Miami Dolphins. Upon completion of my list I realized that I was selling Mike Wallace's importance to the offense a bit short, so I gave him an honorable mention at the end of the article.
While I don't view Wallace as a top five "irreplaceable" player on this roster, an opinion that seemed to be quite unpopular, I do realize and emphasize his importance to this offense, even more so in the new system ran by Bill Lazor.
Wallace's mere presence on the field is a benefit to the Dolphins as he draws double coverage, creates tons of space for the other weapons on the field and keeps defenses on their toes as they have to know where he is on every play (something that will benefit the Dolphins much more in 2014 as Wallace will not lining up exclusively on the right side of the field anymore).
Wallace's ability to stretch the field, draw double coverage and create space for his teammates is a tool that makes him a weapon even when he isn't catching the ball. However, when he does catch the ball, this "$60 million man" is a threat to take it to the house with his speed.
In 2012, a Wallace-less Dolphins team threw for nearly 400 less yards and 11 less touchdowns. In 2013, Ryan Tannehill attempted 90 more passes than in 2012 with Wallace flanked to his right.
Keep in mind that Ryan Tannehill was a rookie, but the 2012 Dolphins were often times dared to throw deep because defenses would load the box to stop the run. The Dolphins lack of receiving threats allowed defenses to tee off on Reggie Bush and the Dolphins' running game.
Wallace had a career-year in terms of receptions, but everyone, including Wallace, will tell you that 2013 was a disappointing season. In 2013 Wallace was transitioning to a new team, new city, new quarterback and new offense. He had his fair share of troubles and I said my fair share of choice words to the television during the season.
Wallace was grossly misused because, while his presence was still felt on the field, he was being used, as I said earlier, exclusively on the right side of the formation. This made it much less difficult for a defense to identify where he was on the field and gave them plenty of time to adjust (and as the season went on, gameplan for Wallace specifically as they knew where he would be come Sunday).
Not to mention the offensive line had faltered, rendering the running game to be nearly useless at times. Teams were blitzing Tannehill and playing blanket coverage because they had no fear of being beat by the run (or screen passes, which would have been great to combat those constant blitzes).
Anyway, back to Wallace and, more importantly, back to present day. The Dolphins offense will feature a ton of motions and creative formations to get players in the best possible positions to succeed on the football field. (That sentence a breath of fresh air, isn't it?)
Wallace's location will no longer be known on every play before the offense is even set. An opposing defense will need to seek out Wallace every play while still trying to adjust to the rest of the offensive formation. Is Wallace on the left? In the slot? In the backfield? Creating disorientation and confusion for an opposing defense is a huge advantage.
What other proven piece do the Dolphins have that can run 40 yards in 4.33 seconds? Again, it comes back to this because this is where all of Wallace's worth stems from (but it's not just the speed as Wallace has a secret trick to be able to consistently beat defensive backs deep).
Brian Hartline is an underrated deep threat, and so are Brandon Gibson and Rishard Matthews. Rantavious Wooten, and undrafted free agent, has blazing speed but also an uphill climb to make the roster.
The bottom line is that if Wallace goes down then this receiving corps will be able to pick up the slack. It is designed to be able to do just that with it's depth.
However, there's no guarantee that defenses won't play close to the line, compress the field and dare Miami to beat them deep like they did in 2012.
If that threat is suddenly sidelined for a substantial amount of time, how does this offense replace him? It doesn't, it just has to make everything work in less space.
Wallace isn't vital to this offense, but he supplies a plethora of advantages for the Dolphins that would cause offensive coordinator Bill Lazor to have to work a lot harder to make the offense operate without him.