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2014 Positional Breakdown: Wide Receivers

Posted Feb 10, 2014

Big name additions coupled with talented returners came through.



Miami’s passing game received a significant boost from the additions of free agent wide receivers Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson and those two meshed well with returning veterans Brian Hartline and Rishard Matthews. The return of Marlon Moore midway through the season after Gibson was lost to a knee injury rounded out a unit that earned the trust of second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill throughout the 16 games.

Wallace proved to be that speed and deep threat that had been missing from the Dolphins’ offense, opening things up for the reliable Hartline on the opposite side and for Gibson, Matthews and the tight ends in the middle of the field. Hartline and Wallace came within 70 yards of becoming the first receiving tandem for the franchise since Mark Clayton and Mark Duper in 1991 to each go over 1,000 receiving yards. They were the fourth tandem to each surpass 70 receptions in a regular season.

Matthews stepped up into the regular four-receiver rotation after Gibson went down and delivered some clutch receptions down the stretch. Moore, while seeing limited action, made the most of his snaps and should be looked at as another viable option in 2014.

BREAKING DOWN DOLPHINS WIDE RECEIVERS

• Brian Hartline (6-2, 199) — For the second straight year, Hartline was the team’s leading receiver and stepped up his game in response to being rewarded with a new contract last March. His 76 receptions were a career-best and by reeling in 1,016 yards worth of passes he became just the fourth Miami Dolphin to put together back-to-back seasons of 1,000 yards. Hartline’s four touchdown catches also were a career-high and gave him 10 for his career while also establishing him as one of the league’s up-and-comers.

• Mike Wallace (6-0, 199) — Wallace came to South Florida with a big contract and a lot of hype coming off of four solid seasons and one Super Bowl championship with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The speedster had little difficulty getting behind opposing cornerbacks on the go route but he also showed improved route running skills and a talent for picking up yards after the catch, especially on wide receiver screens. With 73 receptions for 930 yards and five touchdowns, Wallace set a new career-high for receptions and went over 100 receiving yards four times, including for 105 and a touchdown in the 24-20 upset win over the New England Patriots. He developed a better chemistry with Tannehill by the end of the season.

• Brandon Gibson (6-0, 205) — Though he only managed to play in seven games for the Dolphins, Gibson quickly became one of Tannehill’s favorite targets because of his sure hands and crisp routes, hauling in three touchdown passes before hurting his knee at New England on October 27th. He had 30 catches for 326 yards and was on pace to join Hartline and Wallace in the 70-reception club, and he also acted as a solid mentor to Matthews, meaning his return to form will be much anticipated by the coaching staff.

• Rishard Matthews (6-0, 210) — Matthews started to emerge as a promising receiver at the end of his rookie campaign in 2012 and gave Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin the confidence to go with just four receivers on the 53-man roster coming out of training camp. By season’s end he had caught 41 passes for 448 yards and two touchdowns, with his breakout performance coming in front of a national television audience on Monday Night Football at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when he led the team with 11 catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns. Matthews and Tannehill clicked immediately after Gibson was put on IR and he still has a good upside to him.

• Marlon Moore (6-0, 190) — After landing in San Francisco at the beginning of the season and staying on their roster through Week 8, Moore rejoined the Dolphins in Week 10 at Tampa Bay and quickly assimilated himself into the rotation. He really made his mark on special teams as a gunner but managed to catch six passes for 56 yards in spot duty. Moore should get another long look in training camp from new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor.

Armon Binns was projected to be a major contributor in the passing game during training camp but an unfortunate knee injury landed him on Injured Reserve. He is hoping to make a full recovery and be a factory in 2014, while practice squad wide receiver Ryan Spadola was signed to a futures contract last week. He came over from the New York Jets and was active for one game.
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