Mike Wallace, Ryan Tannehill and a Brief History of New QB-WR Tandems

Erik Frenz@ErikFrenzSenior Writer IJuly 31, 2013

When the Miami Dolphins unloaded a BRINKS truck to address their need for a speed threat at wide receiver—signing the dynamic Mike Wallace to a five-year, $60 million contract—the biggest question was whether he could build chemistry with quarterback Ryan Tannehill the way he had with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

We don't have our answer yet, and we won't get our answer until the team suits up for live action.

The chemistry wasn't immediate, but it's never expected to be.

It's usually built over time, especially when the passes are coming from a young quarterback.

A week later, the tone has changed.

Wallace is not the first big-name receiver to change teams and be forced to build a rapport with a new passer. It's not all the responsibility of the receiver, though. Sometimes the change in quarterback can be for the better, but sometimes a receiver heads to a team with a more shady situation under center.

Without going too far back in the annals of time, let's take a look at some of those big-name receivers to switch teams, and therefore quarterbacks, from over the past few seasons.


2010: Anquan Boldin to the Baltimore Ravens

Cardinals quarterbacks, 2009: 392-for-594 (66 percent), 4,200 yards (7.1 YPA), 27 TD, 18 INT, 89.1 passer rating

Ravens quarterbacks, 2010: 308-for-491 (62.7 percent), 3,629 yards (7.4 YPA), 25 TD, 10 INT, 93.6 passer rating

When Boldin joined the Ravens in 2010, it was seen as the salvo to their ails in the passing game. They had found the player they hoped would become their quarterback of the future in Joe Flacco, but he needed weapons for him to throw to.

Boldin went from being the second option on one of the pass-happiest teams in the NFL with a Super Bowl-winning quarterback to the top option on a run-first team with a quarterback entering his third year. That's quite a dramatic change for Boldin in one year's time, but he managed to remain fairly productive.  His touchdown total increased, despite there being fewer touchdowns to go around.

It took him next to no time to make an impact, with 27 receptions for 355 yards and three touchdowns in his first four games. Granted, he came back down to Earth a bit after that, but his performance is proof that a receiver can make an instant impact, even when the quarterback is still fairly new to the NFL game.

It should also be noted that Flacco took a leap from 2009 to 2010. His completion percentage went down slightly, but his yards per attempt, touchdowns and passer rating all went up, and his interceptions went down as well. It's no mistake that the passing game took a step forward in adding a big-time wide receiver, even if the receiver's stats didn't 100 percent correlate with that improvement.


2010: Brandon Marshall to the Miami Dolphins

Broncos quarterbacks, 2009: 341-for-558 (61.1 percent), 3,825 yards (6.9 YPA), 21 TD, 13 INT, 84.4 passer rating

Dolphins quarterbacks, 2010: 335-for-557 (60.1 percent), 3,755 yards (6.7 YPA), 17 TD, 21 INT, 74.8 passer rating

When Josh McDaniels took over as the Denver Broncos head coach, he immediately went on a house-cleaning spree, getting rid of star quarterback Jay Cutler one offseason and star receiver Brandon Marshall the next. 

Not surprisingly, his stats suffered. He went from catching passes from the cannon-armed Cutler to fielding wounded ducks from Chad Henne, and later, Tyler Thigpen.

The Dolphins had been forced to move away from the Wildcat as teams began catching onto the trickery. They needed to present legitimate threats in the passing game. With Marshall, Davone Bess and Brian Hartline, the Dolphins may have had a solid trio if their woes at quarterback weren't so significant.

Even with the addition of Marshall, the Dolphins' passing attack was not much better in 2010 than it was in 2009, when they passed for fewer than 4,000 yards and had two fewer touchdowns and a slightly lower passer rating than 2010.


2012: Vincent Jackson to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Chargers quarterbacks, 2011: 366-for-582 (62.9 percent), 4,624 yards (7.9 YPA), 27 TD, 20 INT, 88.7 passer rating

Buccaneers quarterbacks, 2012: 311-for-566 (54.9 percent), 4,144 yards (7.3 YPA), 27 TD, 17 INT, 81.8 passer rating

Some receivers would be impacted greatly by a dip in quarterback play like the one Vincent Jackson saw when he went from the West Coast to the southeast.

All V-Jax did was exactly what he had done for most of his six years with the Chargers: make big plays and cause matchup problems for opposing cornerbacks.

Jackson was the top outside receiver in a vertical offense with a big-armed quarterback, all benefits which left some doubting his potential with another team, another system and another quarterback. As it turned out, Jackson was even more dominant with the Buccaneers. 

It's not a surprise that he was able to remain productive. He is a physical freak at wide receiver, running a 4.46-second 40-yard dash at 6'5" and 230 pounds. His ability to go downfield and win jump balls has made him one of the most feared receivers in the game.

Sometimes, a player's skill set transcends offenses. Those are the types of players that you can build an offense around. Jackson is one of those players.


2012: Pierre Garcon to the Washington Redskins

Colts quarterbacks, 2011: 302-for-534 (56.6 percent), 3,223 yards (6.0 YPA), 14 TD, 14 INT, 72.2 passer rating

Redskins quarterbacks, 2012: 291-for-442 (65.8 percent), 3,666 yards (8.3 YPA), 24 TD, 8 INT, 102.1 passer rating

Any wide receiver would have to be overjoyed with moving from the Colts' 2011 quarterback carousel to the utter dominance by Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III in his rookie season.

Pierre Garcon didn't get to enjoy the full fruits of such a transition, but in actuality, his performance didn't dip that much. In fact, he averaged 4.4 receptions per game in both 2011 and 2012 and averaged four more receiving yards per game last year than the year prior. 

It took him next to no time to make an impact, hauling in three of the most memorable catches of the season. The first came in Week 1 against the Saints, on an 88-yard catch-and-run in the first quarter. The second was in Week 12, in his second game back following a four-game absence, on a 59-yard catch and run. And the third was in the very next game against the Giants, on a fourth-quarter touchdown catch that put the Redskins ahead for good.

He did this while going from being the second option behind the dominant Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne, and formerly having caught passes from Peyton Manning, to being the top option (at least when he was out there) in the Redskins' more balanced offense. 

If RGIII is going to hang in the pocket more this season, he'll be looking to Garcon as a security blanket nearly every time he drops back. 


2013: Mike Wallace to the Miami Dolphins

Steelers quarterbacks, 2012: 354-for-574 (61.7 percent), 4,012 yards (7.0 YPA), 27 TD, 14 INT, 88.1 passer rating

Dolphins quarterbacks, 2012: 293-for-504 (58.1 percent), 3,425 yards (6.8 YPA), 13 TD, 13 INT, 76.7 passer rating

The Dolphins picked up Wallace because he is exactly what they were missing in their passing game last year: a speed threat. 

Receivers Brian Hartline and Davone Bess were serviceable last year, but Wallace's ability to stretch a defense vertically was absent from the Dolphins offense last year. Wallace's average yards per reception has dipped in each of the past two years, from a ridiculous 21 in 2010 to 16.6 in 2011 to 13.1 in 2012, but he was used differently by offensive coordinator Todd Haley last year, less on go-routes and more underneath.

That being said, his contributions to the offense can't be judged strictly on a statistical level. If Wallace is forcing a defense to respect the deep pass, that will open things up for the other receivers and tight ends. It will make quarterback Ryan Tannehill's job easier, as well, with bigger windows underneath.

From there, it's up to the Dolphins coaching staff to find ways to get the ball into the hands of their best playmakers, specifically Wallace.

As mentioned above, the chemistry between the two is still a work in progress, but from the sound of it, they're trending in the right direction. We'll get our first look at the duo on Sunday night in the Hall of Fame game between the Dolphins and the Cowboys, but even then, our glimpse will probably be brief. 

If they can build off their progress with a few good weeks of practice, they'll be right where they want to be come Week 1.


Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all stats obtained from the Sports-Reference.com network and all quotes obtained firsthand or via team press releases.


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