Is a steady veteran presence at wide receiver so much to ask for?
Apparently, for the Miami Dolphins, it is.
Those two moves have left the Dolphins lacking both experience and talent at wide receiver.
Johnson was already walking a thin line after his very colorful press conference, but his expressive ways with the media were to be expected.
For all the "character concerns" around Johnson, he never had a single run-in with the law. Until now.
When the Dolphins signed Johnson, they thought they were getting an experienced receiver who could run the route tree. They thought they were getting a physically gifted receiver once considered one of the best in the game. At the very least, they were hoping to make their battle for roster spots at wide receiver more interesting.
It got interesting, all right.
The Dolphins no longer have a receiver on their roster with more than five years of NFL experience, and other than Legedu Naanee, Davone Bess and Brian Hartline, the Dolphins receivers all boast two or fewer years of NFL experience.
For a team that's rebuilding, though, things could be a lot worse.
Reports from Sunday's Johnson-less practice indicated that third-year receiver Roberto Wallace got some run with the first-team offense. Per the Palm Beach Post:
Wallace, who had four catches for 71 yards Friday against Tampa Bay, worked with Legedu Naanee and Davone Bess as the starting receivers. When the Dolphins used two-receiver sets, they went with Naanee and Wallace, who is the Dolphins' most physically imposing receiver at 6-4, 225 pounds. Julius Pruitt and Clyde Gates also got a bump up the depth chart.
"We're waiting for guys to take a hold of that position and really solidify their spot on the ballclub," [head coach Joe] Philbin said.
Naanee and Bess are currently the Dolphins' two most experienced receivers, so their placement on the depth chart doesn't come as much of a surprise. The combination of Wallace and Naanee on the field gives the Dolphins a great deal of size on the outside.
As primarily a special teamer and the team's No. 5 receiver in 2011, Wallace's season was cut short when the receiver was placed on injured reserve following a quad injury. The Miami Herald reported that Wallace had an impressive offseason program, but his emergence was thwarted with the top four spots locked up by veterans.
Now, it looks like Wallace is getting a chance to prove himself once again.
But Philbin's quote is telling; they want the best receiver to emerge from the pack, not to be revealed by process of elimination.
So they'll keep their search moving. On Monday, ESPN's James Walker was singing the same tune about third-year receiver Marlon Moore.
For those curious, WR Marlon Moore is getting reps today with the starters in Chad Johnson's spot. #Dolphins— James Walker (@JamesWalkerESPN) August 13, 2012
Moore was also a core special teamer in 2011 and was also placed on injured reserve with a foot injury. The Dolphins were high on Moore during the Sparano era, and it seems there's some carry-over in those sentiments with Moore now earning some run with the first-team offense.
But getting reps with the starters is one thing; earning those reps and continuing to earn those reps is another thing entirely. If Moore continues to perform as he did on Monday, according to Izzy Gould of the Sun-Sentinel, those reps will be limited.
Marlon Moore has two drops this period, though the passes were not bulls eyes— Izzy Gould (@IzzyGould) August 13, 2012
This is what training camp is for—to find the players that fit the scheme best, and who step up when the opportunity arises. Early signs indicate that has yet to happen.
There's still work to be done as the Dolphins search for the next man up in their offense. Now that Chad Johnson has dropped the figurative ball, it's time for the Dolphins' other receivers to stop dropping the literal one.