For the Miami Dolphins, the 2013 offseason stressed a focus on supplying weapons to the offense to aid second-year QB Ryan Tannehill in his progression. Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson were all signed to multi-year contracts.
CURRENT WIDE RECEIVERS
Wallace produced 930 receiving yards but at times seemed out of place in Miami’s west coast offense. Wallace’s speed was under-utilized (partly due to a habit of inaccurate deep balls by Tannehill).
Wallace was often missed when he was open down the field last season, but for every errant deep throw by Tannehill, a drop by Wallace can be found. Either way, the duo must do better than last year’s 13 percent completion rate on throws over 20 yards.
Tannehill and Wallace need to get on the same page because the big plays being missed are often the difference between winning and losing. With the Dolphins losing four games by less than seven points last season, hitting on those down-field strikes could have put Miami, who finished 8-8 last year, in the playoffs.
Brian Hartline, on the other hand, has been Tannehill’s favorite receiver for the past two seasons. Hartline’s supreme route running skills allow him to thrive in Miami’s west coast offense. Hartline works the sideline toe-tap like no other and is often open on comeback routes outside of the numbers.
Hartline is a crafty route runner but offers limited run-after-the-catch ability and physicality. Both of these things limit Hartline’s effectiveness running slant routes, a staple of the WCO. On these slant routes Hartline often gets beat to the spot to by cornerbacks or catches the ball and doesn’t go very far.
Hartline recorded his second straight 1,000-yard season in 2013 but tore the PCL in his left knee in the last game of the year.
Brandon Gibson, the third receiver signed to a multi-year deal last offseason, was beginning to excel in his role as Miami’s new slot receiver before his week 8 knee injury. Gibson’s smooth playing style and route running allowed him to consistently get open, and he was the one receiver who could provide decent run-after-catch yards (other than his replacement).
Gibson was also developing into the Dolphins best redzone target, scoring two TDs the week before his injury and another touchdown on his only catch in the game of which his injury occurred.
Rishard Matthews took over as Miami’s slot receiver when Gibson went down. He is a deceptively strong receiver who outmuscles his opponents to spots on the field and has the soft hands to pluck the ball out of the air.
Matthews had a huge game in a close loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, racking up 120 receiving yards on 11 catches with two touchdowns. After that game Matthews disappeared a bit and had a game-changing drop in a week 17 loss, but Matthews appears to be one of the few bright spots on former Dolphins’ GM Jeff Ireland’s resume.
Armon Binns was one of the Dolphins best WRs in training camp in 2013 but a torn ACL stonewalled his surge for a starting spot. Binns has had a long period of time to rehabilitate his knee and will be eager to pick up where he left off last year.
The Dolphins are set to enter the 2014 season with five wide receivers vying for playing time. Wallace, Hartline, Gibson, Binns and Matthews are all talented receivers who can make an impact on this Dolphins team. Supplying all of them with ample targets will be a tough task for Dolphins’ new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor.
This is a good problem to have.
But, three out of five of those named are coming off of knee surgeries. This means the Dolphins will likely want to add a receiver in the third day of the draft to depth to this receiving corps.
The Dolphins will look to add either a big wide receiver as a redzone target or a quick-twitch, play-making, “offensive weapon” type similar to Dexter McCluster, as Miami’s offense doesn’t have either.
Dri Archer, Jalen Saunders, Josh Huff and Bruce Ellington are all third-day offensive weapons the Dolphins could land to provide depth and some extra yards-after-the-catch.
Brandon Coleman and Devin Street are two late-round prospects that would fit the big-body mold.
The Dolphins will take a receiver in the late-rounds if at all, but the potential to land a difference maker is still there as wide receiver is one of the deepest positions in this draft.
Follow @DannyWeeumzNFL on Twitter