Lost in this Miami Dolphins season is the production they have gotten out of their top two wide receivers,
Hartline and Wallace could become the first two receivers since Mark Clayton and Mark Duper back in 1991 to each post a 1,000-yard season in the same year. Clayton and Duper also accomplished the feat in 1984 and 1986 all with Hall-of-Famer Dan Marino at quarterback, and Hartline s 22 yards shy at 978 yards. Wallace, at 905, needs 95 yards.
“It’s great to have two really good players,” said quarterback
Hartline is also looking to become just the fourth receiver to have back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, joining Clayton (1988-89), Irving Fryar (1993-94) and Brandon Marshall (2010-11). He was rewarded back in March with a new contract and Wallace, who spent his first four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, was Miami’s biggest free agent signing during the offseason.
The fact that the two players didn’t know each other before this season makes their performances through 15 games even that more notable and they seem to have formed a tight bond. There have been some games where the double coverage drawn by Wallace has opened things up for Hartline and vice versa, but they respect each other’s work ethic.
“We have the same goals. We want to be great,” Wallace said. “We definitely have a ways to go but this is our first year together and I think we did pretty decent. We could have been a lot better and we both know that, so we’re going to hook up real early in the offseason. It’s not over yet and hopefully we have another long run to make.”
When Wallace was apprised of the milestone within their reach he acknowledged it would be a big accomplishment for the organization but he feels like he has fallen short of his own expectations. He also reiterated how he places a priority on winning and making plays to help the team rather than his own statistics, which has earned him the respect of his teammates and coaches.
Head Coach Joe Philbin and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman have definitely noticed the value both Hartline and Wallace bring to the passing game. Their production and the attention they command from opposing defenses also has led to big catches by tight end
“I think it’s good to have balance as an offensive unit and have more than one guy that you can go to throughout the course of the season or a game for that matter,” Philbin said. “I think it’s been great. I think they’ve both made a good contribution to the offense. I think they’ve been consistent throughout the course of the year. I like what they’ve done. I think they can do different things, complementary skills to one another. I think they’ve been good.”
Tannehill has to develop a rapport with all of his receivers and he has done a good job of that this season, sometimes spreading the ball around to as many 10 different players. He also has a good grasp on what makes each one of them tick and broke down Hartline and Wallace in terms of their unique characteristics.
“I would say Hartline’s detail, day in and day out, coming out to practice every day, being detailed in how he runs his routes, working extremely hard,” Tannehill said. “I think Mike is a funnier guy than people know. He has a handshake with each of the offensive lineman that he does all the time, during practice and during games. He definitely brings a little juice to the huddle that way.”
Even opposing defensive backs have taken notice of Hartline and Wallace and the headaches they can cause, including one that will be on the other sideline on Sunday in Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie.
“Hartline, these past two years he’s been very consistent,” Cromartie said in a conference call with the South Florida media. “I think he’s been very reliable for Tannehill over these past two years. To me he’s the No. 1 receiver. I know they signed Mike Wallace to a big deal this off-season, but to me he’s the most consistent receiver of the group. He’s not a fast guy but he can get over the top of DBs that are faster than him. That’s because he’s a veteran type guy, he understands the game and he understands what Tannehill is looking for.”
Cromartie had to cover Wallace in the first meeting between the two teams, a game that was won by Miami handily, 23-3. Wallace caught seven passes for 82 yards and a touchdown and Cromartie made sure not to disrespect him.
“Mike Wallace, he’s a speedster,” Cromartie said. “I think the first half of the season he was trying to get acclimated with Tannehill. He’s approaching 1,000 yards. He has 68 catches for 905 yards and he’s that explosive receiver that can get down the field, can change the game on a big play. And the way they use him is for that reason.”
If the two receivers have the type of impact against the Jets that they are capable of, that milestone will be reached and they’ll both have something to smile about.