The Miami Dolphins are in the middle of their second Organized Team Activity, running Monday and Tuesday before a day off today and the final day of the practices tomorrow. While the media was only able to cover the first day of the practice, the performance of the day, from wide receiver Mike Wallace, is still resonating.
Wallace had three touchdowns during the day, beating up whichever cornerback was on him on nearly every play, including Pro Bowler Brent Grimes. The three scores were on three different types of play, starting with a 40-yard deep pass from quarterback Ryan Tannehill to Wallace streaking down the sideline. The next score came on a post-pass from Tannehill for a touchdown in the middle of the endzone. The third strike came when Wallace simply beat all the coverage and Tannehill found him in the endzone's back corner.
It is, of course, one practice early in June, with the season still three months away, but it is a step in the right direction for the Tannehill-to-Wallace connection, and it's a good sign from the Dolphins' offense under new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. Tannehill looked sharp most of the day, throwing the ball with authority, making correct decisions quickly, and delivering big plays for the offense. He had one interception on the day, with Jimmy Wilson coming up with a Tannehill pass, however, the ball was actually dropped by the intended receiver, into Wilson.
Wallace's big day was highlighted by the three touchdowns, but it may be what happens before the snap that is the bigger news. "Last year, you kind of knew where I was every single play, what you had to do because I was there every game, same spot," Wallace said after the workout. "Moving around, it’s harder for the defense to know where you’re at, harder for them to adjust."
Under previous coordinator Mike Sherman, Wallace lined up on the right side of the offensive line for over 90-percernt of the offensive plays. There was no motion. There was no looking for mis-matches. It was simply, here's Wallace, now try to stop him. It ultimately let defenses design schemes to take Wallace away from the offense, and turned the speedster into a highly paid decoy.
The 2014 offense seems set to change that, with Wallace lining up in different positions and motioning around the offense. Asked about the advantages he thinks could be coming to the offense with the motion and different allignments, and how much better that will make his performance this year, Wallace answered, "A lot better. Last year, I didn’t even have 1,000 yards. So we can be a lot better, so much better. It’s not just moving around, it’s just playing football in general, just myself, being a better player and putting in more work. I always feel like I work hard, but work even harder. Just try to get better every day."
Head coach Joe Philbin was likewise asked about the benefits of motioning Wallace. "The thing I think can be helpful is that it can create some different matchups potentially. If you motion him or start him inside, they are going to have to decide if they are going to have a particular player move with him. Typically, in man-to-man defense, it might be different. Zone defense, hey, if he is in the slot, we may like his release against the nickel back better than we like his release against an outside corner, whoever we might be playing."
Wallace will be asked to step up this season, his second with the Dolphins, flourishing into the deep threat receiver Miami signed from the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 2013 free agency period. Moving him around the offense, and getting the chemistry that was lacking with Tannehill last year, will be a big plus for Miami, as well as bring Wallace's stats back up to the level he expects of himself. "Not so much," the receiver said of whether last season frustrated him. "It had nothing to do with the offense, it was just myself, not playing up to my personal standards for myself. It was a new situation. But like I said last week, I feel a lot more comfortable. I’m ready to go."