The Dolphins open their preseason Saturday with a home game versus the Tampa Bay Bucs. During the next four weeks, I'll preview the game one day out by shining the spotlight on one player you must keep your eye on because, well, he's impressed me and has a chance to, as Jimmy Johnson once said, be special.
Today we shine that spotlight on wide receiver Roberto Wallace.
Wallace is an undrafted free agent out of San Diego State. So he is, by definition, a long shot on a Miami team that already seems to have roster spots reserved for Brandon Marshall, Brian Hartline, Davone Bess, and Greg Camarillo.
Wallace is locked in a battle for a spot with guys such as Patrick Turner, Julius Pruitt, Marlon Moore, and Ryan Grice-Mullen.
But he has caught my eye because he brings a combination of size and deep-play ability that isn't common among receivers. Wallace is listed at 6-1 and 195 pounds on page 266 of the Miami Dolphins media guide.
That is simply not correct.
He is every bit as big as Marshall and Turner, at 6-4 and 225 pounds. But unlike Turner, I've seen Wallace flash deep-play ability. He showed it in a practice the first week when he caught a 40-plus-yard TD pass versus Sean Smith. And I saw it during a recent evening practice in the Nick Saban Memorial Bubble (NSMB) when he beat Jason Allen deep down the left sideline.
I spoke to a Dolphins personnel man about Wallace and asked how it was that he wasn't drafted? I wanted to know what the problem was with him that no one spent even a seventh-round pick on a receiver with such impressive size and ability to flash (at least occassionally).
"His production was his main issue," the personnel man told me.
Seems throughout Wallace's senior season, the team's scouts simply weren't too impressed because the kids simply wasn't catching passes.
"Everyone had undrafted free agent grades on him early in the year but as the year went on the grades on him started to climb," the personnel man told me.
Wallace caught only 36 passes for 463 yards in 11 games for the Aztecs his senior year. That was third on the team in receptions. So he clearly wasn't the quarterback's favorite target. But the personnel man told me the San Diego State QB last year, Ryan Lindley, struggled early on and really didn't in tune with Wallace until later in the season.
Sure enough, Wallace averaged only 2.4 catches per game the first five outings of the year. He averaged 3.4 catches per game the final seven games of the year, and his outing in the season-finale against UNLV opened eyes.
In that game the Aztecs actually made an attempt to get Wallace the ball and he caught eight passes for 108 yards. I'm also told the fact that Vincent Brown did not play the final five games of the year was another reason Wallace was given the opportunity to step up and perform.
And he did.
Wallace started playing football later in life. He was born in Panama City, Panama and didn't play football until his junior year in high school after moving to Oceanside, Calif. So he's still learning the game, especially route running techniques.
I cannot predict Wallace will make the Dolphins. Yes, he has prototypical size. Yes, he moves well enough. But he has much to learn and the inconsistencies still exist. But he bears watching. Like I said, he flashes.
If he does it often enough starting with Saturday's game against Tampa Bay, he could earn himself a practice squad spot. And maybe I'm being conservative.