Wallace And Gibson Signings Get Thumbs Up

Posted Mar 20, 2013

Rams and Cardinals head coaches share two WRs best traits.

PHOENIX – New Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians had no qualms about singing the praises of Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace because he didn’t directly lose him in free agency.

Jeff Fisher, on the other hand, did have to temper his compliments of wide receiver Brandon Gibson – but not by much. Gibson’s departure to Miami via free agency left a void at the receiver position that Fisher still needs to fill, while Arians could speak freely about the time he spent as Wallace’s offensive coordinator with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the speedster’s first three years in the league (2009-11).

“He was fun to coach and he brings a lot of energy and a great smile to work everyday,” said Arians, who served as offensive coordinator and interim head coach of the Indianapolis Colts last season. “He’s great in the locker room, has great practice habits and obviously he can bust it open on game day at any given moment. We changed our game a little bit about routes because of his speed.

“Instead of running vertical routes we ran a lot of diagonal, from one corner to the other corner because he could get there. It was fun putting pressure on defenses with his speed and he didn’t have to just go deep to catch it. He could take the short ball and got so much better at taking the screens or the quick passes and taking them to the house.”

Wallace’s average of 17.2 yards per catch over four seasons is the third best in the NFL among receivers with a minimum of 200 catches over that period. His best season came in 2010 when he caught 60 passes for 1,257 yards and 10 touchdowns, averaging 21.0 yards per reception.

One year later, Wallace put together another 1,000-yard season with 72 receptions for 1,193 yards and eight touchdowns (16.6 average) with a long of 95 yards. Last year he fell off a bit with 64 catches for 836 yards and eight touchdowns (13.6 average), but as a rookie in 2009 he averaged 19.4 yards per catch on 39 receptions. That’s when he was considered to be more one-dimensional.

“We nicknamed him ‘One Trick Pony’ because he was just that early,” Arians said. “He’s got three or four tricks now. You just give it to him quick and he can make guys miss and do damage quickly.”

Gibson is known less for his separation speed and more for his precise routes, sure hands and consistency in converting third downs. Last season was the best of his career in St. Louis with 61 catches for 591 yards and five touchdowns.

For Fisher, who was in his first season as head coach with the Rams in 2012, he felt that Gibson was a valuable asset to the offense and to quarterback Sam Bradford in particular. Possession receivers are vital to the type of offense that was run in St. Louis and the type that is being run in Miami under Head Coach Joe Philbin and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman at this time.

“Brandon was very, very competitive in practice every day and made extraordinary catches and plays during practice,” Fisher said. “That’s what he’s good at is making the hard catch out of frame. He loves to practice, is a good teammate and he’well be a productive player.”

Those extraordinary catches weren’t just limited to the practice field, as Gibson proved against the Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium in a Week 6 game between the Dolphins and Rams. Miami held on to win the game, 17-14, but Gibson made it scary with his nifty 22-yard, one-handed catch along the left sideline on the game’s final drive.

In fact, during his official visit to the Dolphins’ training facility before signing, Gibson admitted that the play came up “once or twice” in his conversations with Philbin and General Manager Jeff Ireland. Fisher certainly remembers the catch well.

“That was one of the best I’ve seen in a critical situation to keep the drive alive,” he said. “I think because we were .500 teams at the time I don’t think that catch got a lot of national recognition, but that was one of the better catches I’ve seen. He can do that and he’s a very precise route runner, understands defenses and can pick up an offense in a short period of time.”

So factor those evaluations into what these additions mean to second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the offense and it seems the Dolphins and their fans have good reason to be excited.

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