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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Zulgad: Vikings not getting much return on investment in Wallace

By Judd Zulgad

Mike Wallace arrived in Minnesota last March with the reputation for being a headache off the field but with the promise of being a dynamic playmaker on it.

The Vikings’ hope was that Wallace could serve as the team’s deep threat in the passing game and that the chemistry he would develop with Teddy Bridgewater would keep everyone happy.

According to all accounts from Winter Park, Wallace hasn’t created any issues in the locker room and has been pleasant enough to be around. Unfortunately, for the Vikings, Wallace hasn’t come close to living up to expectations and, unless something turns around quickly, his stay in purple will be a short one.

The statistics don’t tell the story of how ineffective Wallace has been.

The 29-year-old wide receiver is third on the Vikings with 28 catches for 318 yards and a touchdown. A guy who was supposed to stretch the field has a season-long gain of 22 yards.

Through 10 games, Wallace is the biggest disappointment on the Vikings’ roster and it would not be unfair to label him a bust.

The Vikings only had to send a 2015 fifth-round pick to the Dolphins to get Wallace and a 2015 seventh-round pick in return, but that was because Miami was desperate to get rid of the guy.

The reason was simple. Wallace had become a pain in the behind in the locker room and, most importantly, was due to make $9.85 million this season. The Dolphins had no intention of writing that check, but the Vikings thought Wallace would be worth the investment.

“We want to have a lot of speed offensively, and we feel like that will help a lot,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer told reporters after the deal. “With [Vikings receiver] Charles Johnson, it opens up more things for the runners, it opens up more things for the tight end. And with [quarterback] Teddy, you know, he plays so damn accurate. It opens things up.”

Turns out that Zimmer could not have been more wrong on this one.

Wallace teased us during the preseason, catching a 39-yard pass from Bridgewater along the right sideline in the first quarter of a late August game in Dallas.

The reaction from this corner reflected how many felt after seeing that play: Wallace is going to provide Bridgewater with the exact type of deep threat he needs in order to loosen up defenses and create more running room for Adrian Peterson.

Nearly three months later, Wallace has gone from the guy expected to be one of Bridgewater’s top targets to an unreliable afterthought in the passing game. Bridgewater and Wallace have not been helped by the fact the Vikings’ patched together offensive line has struggled at times.

Bridgewater spent much of Sunday’s game running for his life and was sacked six times. Nonetheless, Wallace has had opportunities to make big plays and he has failed.

There were two such instances on Sunday in the Vikings’ 30-13 loss to Green Bay at TCF Bank Stadium.

On the Vikings’ opening series, with a second-and-4 from the Green Bay 43-yard line, Wallace dropped Bridgewater’s pass. Pro Football Focus has Wallace with only four drops this season, but anyone who has watched the Vikings on a regular basis would put that number closer to 10.

The drop wasn’t Wallace’s lowlight from Sunday. With the Vikings trailing 27-13 in the fourth quarter, Bridgewater went deep down the right sideline for Wallace on first down from the Vikings 25.

This was the exact type of situation for which Wallace had been acquired and a catch would have put the Vikings in great field position with just over five minutes left in the game. Bridgewater’s throw wasn’t perfect, but this was a ball for which the receiver had to lay out, much as Stefon Diggs had done to catch a touchdown in Detroit.

Wallace, however, never left his feet and the ball hit the ground after just missing his fingertips. Wallace’s defenders will point out that Bridgewater doesn’t come close to having the arm of the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger, the quarterback with whom Wallace had his greatest success, but that makes it all the more necessary for him to capitalize of any opportunity that comes along.

Despite being shutout for the second time this season on Sunday, Wallace still ended up playing 52 snaps in the game. That was second-most among Vikings wide receivers to the 55 snaps that went to Diggs. Johnson, who finished third on Minnesota with 475 receiving yards in 2014, remained a forgotten man in this offense.

Johnson battled injuries earlier this season and was on the field for only nine snaps Sunday. Jarius Wright, who had four catches for 50 yards against the Packers, was third with 33 snaps.

Considering Wallace’s lack of productivity, one would think that Johnson and Wright should get more work. The pair certainly has better chemistry with Bridgewater. But benching a guy making $9.85 million for a guy making $510,000 (Johnson), or $1.5 million (Wright) might be a tough sell to the front office.

What won’t be a tough sell is cutting ties with Wallace long before he collects on those eye-popping paydays of $11.45 million he’s due each of the next two seasons.

The post Zulgad: Vikings not getting much return on investment in Wallace appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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