Mike Wallace is clearly comfortable, off the field, in his new surroundings. He’s confident enough in the locker room to speak out whenever he thinks the coaching staff is missing something (which is whenever the coaching staff isn’t feeding him the ball on every throw). On the field, however, the comfort with QB Ryan Tannehill isn’t there and consistent production is nowhere to be found.
After week one, Wallace was vocal in his criticism of a game plan that saw him on the receiving end of just five pass attempts from Tannehill with just one catch. The following game, his looks went up significantly. This week, he’s concerned that the team isn’t taking enough deep shots in his direction, so should we expect the team to start feeding him the ball over the top? Not according to OC Mike Sherman or to the numbers to date. Admittedly Wallace’s one word response to a direct question isn’t all that inflammatory, but it does show that he thinks the team could be using him more effectively. The problem: he’s been far from effective on deep passes to date.
The folks at Pro Football Focus do a great job of compiling metrics on many different elements of the game, but, they like to be compensated for their work and the data is behind a pay wall… so, allow me to summarize.
Of plays who have received more then 25% of their targets on deep balls (attempts of greater than 20 yards) Wallace ranks 30/33 in effectiveness. He has caught just one of the seven deep passes thrown his way (for 34 yards), and added a dropped pass, for a catch rate of 14.3%. Those seven deep targets through four weeks are the 14th most in the league, so it isn’t as if the Dolphins won’t look his way down field. The challenge is that he isn’t catching the ball when the opportunities are there. Some of that is on the receiver, some rests with the quarterback, but it clearly isn’t working for the Dolphins and that’s why you won’t see Joe Philbin’s team chucking it up just because the receiver called for it.
Fellow receiver Brian Hartline has just two looks deep, but has caught both of them. Beyond that, Tannehill is a more effective passer when throwing to Hartline. In fact, the duo has the 12th highest QB Rating in the league when working together.
On 30 throws targeting Hartline this season Tannehill has 21 completions for 272 yards, two touchdowns and an interception for a rating of 106.5. He has passed to Wallace 28 times for 15 catches, 176 yards, one touchdown and two picks; a rating of 55.1. While the number is an imperfect measure, it’s clear that things have gone much better for the Dolphins when they’re throwing in Hartline’s direction than in Wallace’s. Much of that can be attributed to chemistry and the fact that one player has played 20 games with the QB while the other is new to town, but until it becomes clear that Wallace and Tannehill are on the same page, the unheralded Hartline is the more compelling fantasy option.