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They are together now just about every day on the practice field. Playing catch. Working on techniques. Building a solid chemistry. Pass after pass, catch after catch, they keep the intensity up and the throttle pushed to the limit.
Ryan Tannehill and Mike Wallace will be the first to tell you that their initial season together fell well short of expectations. And that has got to change. Has to change for Tannehill to reach another level as a young quarterback. Has to change for Wallace to continue to justify his top-tier salary among NFL receivers.
You think this offseason is important? For these two players, it is huge. Because these two players, in so many ways, are bonded together. Sure, this new Dolphins offense now offers many intriguing options, more than any year since Tannehill arrived. How well Tannehill spreads it around, how efficiently he makes the most of the pieces that are now available, will have so much to do with the success of this offense.
But none of it, in my mind, can compare to the importance of Tannehill and Wallace developing an on-the-field rapport that they simply could not master in their first season together.
“Well, it’s big, it’s big time,” Tannehill said after a recent OTA practice. “I think it’s one thing you look at from last year, connecting more. Not only on deep throws, but connecting more on every pattern. Mike has been working hard this offseason and putting forth a lot of effort and that’s exciting.”
Added Wallace who will be moving around more in this new offense: “I feel so much better heading into this season. We’ve been working hard together. I missed one day and we’ve been together the rest of the time. There is no reason we shouldn’t take it to another level this season.”
On the surface, last year’s level wasn’t so bad. Wallace set a career high with 73 catches and he came 70 yards short of another 1,000-yard season. He made some huge catches, scored some big touchdowns. But it is what could have been that has stayed with Tannehill and Wallace through the long days since the season concluded.
How many times was Wallace wide open and Tannehill simply could not hit him in stride? Each game brought more examples, more frustration. Think about all the plays they left on the field, all the moments that could have been theirs for the taking, all the touchdowns that could have meant the difference between an 8-8 record and a spot in the playoffs.
Yes, Wallace finished the season with five touchdown catches. Without stretching the imagination much at all, that number could have easily been 10. The fault doesn’t lie solely on Tannehill’s broad shoulders. Wallace will be the first to tell you that. There were communication issues. They were mental breakdowns. There were a few drops.
But nobody is laying blame. Nobody is harping too much on what could have been. Instead, you’ve got Tannehill and Wallace out there on the practice field just about every day. Working on timing. Working on technique. Working on mastering this new offense. Working on building a trust that is so important between quarterback and receiver.
“Oh yeah, there is a lot of improvement between us,” Wallace said. “I really believe this year is going to be different. We are developing a good feel for one another. We’re going to learn from everything that has happened.”
This is a crucial season for both players. It is crucial for Tannehill to continue to advance in his third season, to eliminate some of the mistakes that have troubled him in his first two seasons and to generally take his overall game to another level. It is important for Wallace because he was brought here, and paid handsomely, to be a difference-maker, to light up the scoreboard with long distance plays and game-defining moments.
Each will tell you that he needs the other to succeed, that it remains imperative that they solve the mystery of the deep pass, that they feed off of one another and develop a confidence-level that transfers into better performances and more consistency.
So each day, or just about, they are together now. Deep throw after deep throw. One more pass. One more catch. Then another. And another. Got to keep pushing. Got to keep building that trust. Got to get that timing down just right. Got to make sure that next season a long pass floats gently into Wallace’s hand, catching him stride, giving him a real chance to produce points.
“We’re moving in the right direction,” Wallace said. “We’re really getting a solid feel for each other.”
And it must continue. It must build. It must show its face this season early and often. Ryan Tannehill and Mike Wallace are hard at work, determined to build something special. How well they succeed, how they grow together, means so much to the success of this football team.
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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