Miami Dolphins WR Breakdown: Complete Evaluation and Depth Chart Analysis
The Miami Dolphins wide receiving corps was the most upgraded part of what looks to be an improved offense in 2013.
Because of the money spent at the position, it will also be the position held up to the most scrutiny on the offensive side, as their performance will be indicative of how well Ryan Tannehill does, but also how well Miami can possibly run the ball.
However, despite the acquisitions, Miami still has two holes to fill on the depth chart at the position, mainly at the fourth and fifth wide receiver positions. The top three are all settled, and each of those receivers will be discussed in this slideshow.
So how will the Dolphins wide receiver depth chart look? What will each receiver bring to the table?
Come along and let's take a look.
WR1: Mike Wallace
There's no question that Mike Wallace is the Miami Dolphins No. 1 receiver.
He was signed to do just that, and is being paid like a number one receiver as well.
The question is, how long will it take for Tannehill to develop a chemistry with Wallace?
I predict it will take seven games—no, not seven regular-season games. I mean the five preseason games plus the first two games of the season.
But Wallace isn't just an asset for Miami's offense in terms of catching the ball, as he will allow the running game to flourish by forcing Miami's opposition to keep the safeties back, while also drawing double coverage, freeing up his fellow receivers as well as Miami's tight ends and running backs.
He's a major game-changer, and the only way he won't be Miami's No. 1 receiver on Week 1 in Cleveland is if he gets hurt during the preseason.
WR2: Brian Hartline
Our first big beneficiary of Mike Wallace is Miami's second wide receiver, Brian Hartline.
Hartline already has built-in chemistry with Tannehill, coming off a tremendous season where he had 74 catches for 1,083 yards and one touchdown.
That one touchdown sticks out like a sore thumb and was an outlier at that, coming off an 80-yard pass from Tannehill on a play action against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 4 last season.
By Week 1 of this season, expect Hartline to already surpass his 2012 touchdown totals through more mundane plays, thanks largely to the presence of not only Wallace but also of the third receiver we're profiling, as well as tight ends Dustin Keller, Dion Sims and possibly even Michael Egnew.
If Hartline's numbers surpass Wallace's in the first half of the season, don't be too surprised. On top of that, attribute that to Wallace's presence along with Hartline's chemistry with his quarterback.
WR3: Brandon Gibson
Taking a look at Brandon Gibson's numbers and St. Louis, it's easy to see why the St. Louis Rams were willing to part with him (besides the fact that they knew they could likely use one of their two first-round picks on Tavon Austin).
Gibson wasn't bad, and at times, was quite good (for instance, against the Dolphins, he grabbed seven catches for 91 yards, then against Buffalo, he had six catches for 100 yards and a touchdown). But he was inconsistent.
As a main threat at wide receiver (something that Gibson had to play at times due to injuries to Danny Amendola), Gibson isn't the most ideal choice.
But as your third or fourth receiver, he fits in just fine.
How much Gibson can give to the Dolphins will vary, but if he gives the Dolphins what he gave St. Louis last year from the third receiving slot (51 catches for 691 yards and five touchdowns), both the Dolphins and their fans will be jumping for joy.
Is he capable for such production? Not consistently, but as we saw last season in St. Louis, he is capable of going off and having a big game from time to time.
WR4: Rishard Matthews
Don't be too surprised if Rishard Matthews shocks all of us and winds up playing a more important role on this team than any of us think.
Matthews' size is almost identical to both Wallace and Gibson (all are 6'0"), and he has a bigger frame than Wallace while being faster than Gibson.
On top of that, Matthews is only two inches shorter than Brian Hartline, while still having a bigger frame. He's also a hair faster than Hartline.
Is he a potential X-Factor for the Dolphins? Miami likely hopes so. Considering that they traded Davone Bess and didn't draft another wide receiver, one would assume that the Dolphins have big plans for Matthews and have seen enough improvement in him to think that he's ready to be a regular part of the offense.
He won't be targeted as much as the other three top receiver, nor will he see the same amount of targets as Dustin Keller or the running backs, but with his speed and size, along with a year of NFL experience in this offense, he will make a contribution.
Already he has 11 catches for 151 yards in five games. Spread that out over 16 games and that gives you about 35 catches for 483 yards. For a fourth wide receiver, those are numbers you would take, especially if there was a touchdown or two coming with them.
WR5: Armon Binns
I'm obviously feeling 100 percent correct about the first three players on the Dolphins depth chart, as it's not exactly going out on a limb that the big free-agent signing of the offseason, the biggest non-franchise tag re-signing of the offseason and a significant free-agent acquisition will be the top three players at the wide receiver position.
I'm also about 80 percent sure that Rishard Matthews will be Miami's fourth receiver; he will make an appearance in every game.
But at the fifth receiver? There are questions.
Odds are, the fifth receiver won't make an appearance in every game and likely will be used on special teams more so than on offense. The fifth wide receiver position on a play might even be filled by tight end Dustin Keller lining up in the slot or even Marcus Thigpen.
The Dolphins have enough versatility to allow that to happen. The only reason a fifth receiver might make his way on the field for an offensive play will be injuries, and since this is the NFL, as much as it is terrible to think about, there will be an injury of some kind.
Right now, Armon Binns is the front-runner for that fifth wide receiver slot, but I'm not feeling too hot about that.
Last year's undrafted free agent Jeff Fuller will make a run for the position, as could 2013 UDFA's Brian Tyms and Chad Bumphis. Speedy Terrell Sinkfield might also make enough noise in training camp to convince Miami to give him a shot at the position as well.
Nothing is set in stone with this position, and in fact, for all we know, Binns could wind up outperforming Matthews and take the fourth receiver position. Just about anything can happen in this situation, and it will take most (if not all) of training camp to figure it out.
For all we know, Miami's fifth wide receiver might not be on the roster yet, but could be an acorn released by another team after the final cuts land in Miami's lap.
Heck, it could even be the triumphant return of "Mr. 7-11" himself, Chris Hogan.
There's a lot to figure out on the Dolphins roster, and odds are fifth receiver isn't the battle you will be paying attention to.
Nonetheless, it will be a good battle, a battle that would've been totally unnecessary had they either kept Davone Bess for another season, drafted either Quinton Patton or Ryan Swope, or done both of those.
But I digress, as these Dolphins wideouts are better than what they had last season. How much better they will be will be fun to find out.
For more Dolphins news and information, be sure to listen to my Dolphins Central Podcast, available for download every Wednesday Night. Be sure to follow Dolphins Central on Twitter, @DolphinsCentral and feel free to ask questions to be answered on a future podcast, as well as any suggestions for guests on the program.
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