One of the most discussed free-agent acquisitions of the NFL offseason has been the Miami Dolphins signing former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace. The Dolphins signed Wallace to a five-year, $60 million deal with $30 million in guarantees at the beginning of free agency.
Wallace wasn't the only investment the Dolphins made at the wide receiver position this offseason. They signed Brian Hartline to a five-year, $30.7 million deal and brought over Brandon Gibson from the St. Louis Rams with a three-year, $9.7 million deal. Altogether, the Dolphins invested just over $100 million in contracts to these three players this offseason.
These moves immediately put the spotlight on second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill. It'll be up to him and Wallace to get things going early for the Dolphins if they're to have any success. There's reason to believe they'll be able to develop a quick chemistry with each other out on the field.
Tannehill didn't have a terrible 2012 season, but it wasn't great either. He completed 58 percent of his passes and threw for 3,294 yards. He threw 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, which isn't exactly a great ratio. But Pro Football Focus had Tannehill as the No. 16-ranked quarterback in 2012, which puts him near the middle of the pack.
Most of the talk surrounding Wallace to the Dolphins was centered around his speed and ability to make big plays. That's apparent when you check out Pro Football Focus' premium statistics (subscription required), which show that Wallace caught six passes last season that were thrown over 20 yards. On those six receptions, Wallace had 263 yards receiving and three touchdowns.
Wallace was targeted 23 times on passes that were to the middle or right side of the field and were at least 20 yards down the field. Those six receptions for 263 yards all came on passes to the middle (two) or right (four). The fact that he was targeted that many times and only had six catches could be a concern. That is until we look at Tannehill's numbers on those same deep throws.
Tannehill attempted 33 passes in those same two areas last season. Seven of those were across the middle and 26 were deep to the right.
Obviously there are other factors that come into play when looking at these numbers. They aren't facing the same defenses, Tannehill wasn't throwing to Wallace, and Wallace wasn't catching passes from Tannehill.
But of those 33 passes for 20-plus yards that Tannehill attempted down the middle or to the right side, 17 of them were caught for 534 yards. That's a 51-percent success rate for Tannehill in Miami compared to a 26-percent success rate for Wallace in Pittsburgh.
Mike Wallace set a career high for receiving yards in 2010 with 1,257. Will he break that in 2013?
The big difference in those numbers is that Wallace averaged 43.8 yards on each of his receptions in this category, while Tannehill's receivers averaged just 31.4 yards.
This is the closest way we can compare what kind of a specific difference Wallace can make for Tannehill and the Dolphins offense this season. Tannehill has shown to be accurate down the field in the same area that Wallace has proven to be a big-time playmaker.
Their strengths coincide with one another. It's for this reason they can be expected to find a quick chemistry and prove to be the worthwhile investment the Dolphins front office hoped they would become.
After all, the Dolphins are banking on this to be true, literally.