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Mike Wallace stood on the practice field on a sweltering morning earlier this week and made one thing perfectly clear.
“I’m always open,” he said. “Just throw it up to me and I’ll make the play.”
Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well, not quite.
This training camp has been about many things. But clearly one of the most significant subplots has been the importance of establishing a connection – literally and figuratively – between quarterback Ryan Tannehill and Wallace.
Much has been written and said about the Jacksonville game, how the tapes showed Wallace open deep and Tannehill either going in a different direction or having to hurry because of some breakdowns on the offensive line.
“It’s the preseason,” Wallace said, “give it some time.”
Or, as Tannehill put it, “There’s no need to panic, it’s going to happen.”
I’d love to see it happen Saturday night in Houston. Certainly not as much as I’d like to see it happen on Sept. 8th in Cleveland. But I’m looking for indicators, reasons to feel that there is a chemistry similar to the chemistry that has developed between Tannehill and tight end Dustin Keller.
Press me on the subject and I’ll tell you that Wallace’s number must be called between eight and 10 times a game this season. I asked Wallace about this and the response generated a broad smile. “I’d love for that to happen,” he said.
Then, he added, “I played four seasons with Ben (Roethlisberger) in Pittsburgh and we got to the point where he could just nod in my direction and I would know what he was thinking. That’s a huge advantage for a quarterback and receiver. But to expect me and Ryan to be able to freelance like that at this point is just asking too much. It will come. I know it will. But it just takes time.”
Time, however, is growing preciously short. Not only for Tannehill and Wallace, but for so many other areas of this football team. These next two preseason games, the third and fourth, usually mean the most significant playing time for the starters. It is time to step up.
With that in mind, here’s the 10 things I’d most like to see Saturday night:
1. Tannehill to Wallace. Enough said.
2. Will the takeaways continue? The Dolphins forced four turnovers last Friday at Jacksonville. A trend or an aberration? Let’s find out.
3. Miller time? Second-year back Lamar Miller is generally considered the favorite to win the starting running back job. It’s time, I believe, for him to go out and prove it.
4. Are things right on the left side? Tackle Jonathan Martin has been under the microscope this preseason and that will continue against the Texans. It would be huge if he could follow a solid effort against Jacksonville with another one Saturday night.
5. Are things right on the right side? The good news is that right guard John Jerry returned to practice this week, though I don’t expect to play against Houston. The bad news is that Nate Garner will miss a few weeks with an injury. Josh Samuda remains a key component in this equation. But someone needs to take charge at right guard and do it quickly. I’m hoping it’s Jerry.
6. Turning the corner: Rookie cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Will Davis have a chance to make a big impact this season. Davis has already shown plenty. Both need a strong effort against the Texans.
7. Rush Hour: The Dolphins have shown signs of an improved pass rush this preseason. With Olivier Vernon healthy again, we get to see how much havoc he and Cameron Wake can cause together against a very solid offensive line.
8. The young and the very restless: There are a host of young players trying to make this team and this will be a huge game for them. Want some names? Here’s four: Running back Jonas Gray, wide receiver Chad Bumphis, defensive lineman A.J. Francis and safety Kelcie McCray.
9. Everything Ellerbe: We got to see one quarter of work from free agent linebacker Dannell Ellerbe last Friday night and, wow, was he impressive. Now I want to see what he does with even more playing time.
10. Time to be special: We haven’t seen a whole lot from the special teams this preseason and it’s time, I believe, to solidify those units and start making important personnel decisions. Who are the core special teams players? That needs to be answered.
On Monday A.C. in the A.M. evaluates what happened against Houston
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
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