Wallace Believes Dolphins Are On The Right Track

Posted Jul 22, 2013

Speedster is one of three new additions to passing game for Miami.

Despite setting franchise records for passing yards (3,294), completions (282) and attempts (484) by a rookie quarterback last season, Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill knew there was still plenty of room for growth. Miami also knew the importance of getting him some more weapons and now the passing game is ready for the next step.

What the Dolphins lacked in speed on the outside in 2012 has been addressed with the acquisition of former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace, who introduced himself to Tannehill right away and the two started working together on their own. Brandon Gibson, formerly of the St. Louis Rams, was signed as a bigger option in the slot but also as someone capable of lining up anywhere on the line of scrimmage and former New York Jets tight end Dustin Keller brings a faster and more dangerous seam threat to the offense.

Throwing passes against air – meaning no defenders covering the receivers – is quite a different animal than actually practicing against a defense, so Tannehill, Wallace and others have taken the progress they made prior to yesterday’s first training camp with a grain of salt. But that did not diminish the confidence they gained.

“I think we are right on track where we need to be,” said Wallace, who ranks in the top five in the NFL in touchdown receptions (32) and average per reception (17.2) from 2009-12. Ryan is a guy who is a competitor who really wants to be a great quarterback. I think we are on track to where we need to be and to get better every single day.”

Tannehill quickly developed a strong rapport with wide receiver Brian Hartline last season, even though he also was adjusting to the NFL and the speed of the game. The hope for Head Coach Joe Philbin and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman is that their young quarterback continues that trend of gaining chemistry quickly with the new guys.

There are unique characteristics to every receiver, from his speed to the way he breaks off his routes to where he likes the ball thrown and even how hard he likes it thrown. Tannehill is well aware of those nuances and is taking that aspect of the relationships seriously.

“I think everyone has their own niches in the offense, things that they really do well. We are learning those things,” Tannehill said. “We are learning them as an offense that best utilizes them in our game plans. It does take a little bit of time. Right now I feel as if we are pretty good with each other from the work we’ve done in the spring and summer, but I think you will see improvement every day from us as we go forward.”

Philbin and Sherman did their homework on some of those niches before they got together with General Manager Jeff Ireland to go over which players they wanted to target in free agency. Wallace’s speed and nose for the end zone were easy to spot on film, but there also were some subtleties regarding his route running and ability to run after the catch that added some intrigue. Gibson’s sure hands were on display against the Dolphins last year at Sun Life Stadium, as well as his crisp route running and Keller was someone Miami got to see twice within the division.

“We looked very closely,” Philbin said. “We charted their catches, where they caught the ball, what location, how deep it was, was it outside of the numbers or inside the numbers. We looked at all of that. We studied. We had research projects going on in the offseason.”

Just how much that research paid off will start to be determined with each practice as Tannehill begins to grow more and more familiar with his new weapons.
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