With the addition of receiver Mike Wallace this offseason, Minnesota should field an improved downfield passing game in 2015.
Bruce Kluckhohn/Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Mike Wallace had just finished his second practice with the Vikings when he was swarmed by local media looking to hear what Minnesota’s new wide receiver thought of his latest offense under coordinator Norv Turner.
Wallace was asked what he’s seen that will suit his talents.
"Deep ball," Wallace said, simply. "Coach Norv is known for vertical offense. I’m excited to get back to it."
Turner’s reputation is well known around the league and it usually begins with the longtime coach making use of receivers who can stretch the field. As soon as the March trade to the Vikings was finished, Wallace’s thoughts turned to the player he had been with the Pittsburgh Steelers when he averaged 17.2 yards per catch in his first four NFL seasons.
"I think it’s more so my first four years," Wallace said of the similarities in the offense as opposed to what he experienced in two seasons in Miami. "It’s (more of) a vertical offense than the short West Coast offense. We go down the field a lot more here, more what I’m accustomed to, so I’m excited about the opportunity."
The speedy, big-play receiver dipped to a 12.8 yards-per-catch average with the Dolphins after bypassing offers from Minnesota to sign a five-year, $60 million contract with Miami. Wallace never fully meshed with young quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the Dolphins’ short, timing-based passing attack.
Another young signal-caller leads the way for the Vikings, and Wallace is working to increase his cohesiveness with Teddy Bridgewater right away. The two connected often in the one organized team activities practice open to the media last week.
"He’s a great addition to the team," Bridgewater said, later adding: "We’re glad to have Mike, he’s going to add some speed to that room and all of those guys are going to continue to elevate their games."
Wallace’s speed is still there and he’s ready to display it in Turner’s system.
"It seems fun to me," Wallace said of the offense. "It’s a vertical offense. I always have fun scoring long touchdowns. So, we’ll see. It’s early. It’s the second day of practice. We have a long way to go."
Wallace has been working at flanker in the early practices as Minnesota is allowing him to settle in one spot before the likelihood of moving him around the formation.
"I know he’s a dynamic receiver and he’s been doing a great job of working," head coach Mike Zimmer said. "He’s a guy that works very, very hard. He’s been catching the ball well. He’s been learning the playbook. All of these things are all different, but he’s looked good."
Wallace’s presence adds another threat to the offense. Bridgewater also mentioned the return of tight end Kyle Rudolph while talking about Wallace. The depth has been improved as well with Wallace, with Charles Johnson currently running as the opposite receiver in practices and Jarius Wright working as the third receiver in the slot.
Speed is a big factor as the receivers group also includes Cordarrelle Patterson and rookie Stefon Diggs, along with Adam Thielen, who played in all 16 games last year.
Wallace said he’s been in five different offenses the past five seasons. He said the offensive concepts begin to transition and he’s focused on getting on the same page with his new teammates.
In the offense, there’s no doubting the fit in Wallace’s mind. He called Turner "legendary" as he’s begun to learn the differences in Turner’s coaching first-hand.
"He’s a different guy when he’s in the building than once he gets on the field," Wallace said. "It’s like a light switch. It’s crazy how fast he can switch on you. His passion, I love that. I’ve played with a lot of coaches with passion, so I’m excited about it."