MINNEAPOLIS -- When the Minnesota Vikings sent a fifth-round pick to the Miami Dolphins for Mike Wallace in March, there was little doubt the Vikings thought they had added a deep threat who could unlock a different part of their offense.
The Vikings envisioned Wallace and Teddy Bridgewater making defenses pay for trying to focus on Adrian Peterson, and they discussed employing Wallace's speed to gain yards after the catch on screen passes. The offense seemed like a better fit for Wallace than Miami's West Coast-based scheme under former coach Joe Philbin, and Wallace sounded happy to be in Minnesota after spurning the Vikings for the Dolphins in free agency two years ago.
There's still a chance all that could work out the way the Vikings hoped. But with six games left in the season, plenty would have to change. Wallace has only 28 catches for 318 yards and a touchdown in 10 games. He's on pace for his fewest catches since his rookie season and the fewest yards of his career.
What's more, Wallace and Bridgewater haven't seemed to click after working out together in the offseason. Bridgewater has overthrown Wallace on a few deep balls, and Wallace couldn't catch up to a deep shot from Bridgewater on Sunday against the Green Bay Packers. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Wallace's average target is just 11.04 yards downfield -- the lowest of his career -- and he's dropped a career-high 7.8 percent of the passes intended for him, including one drop on Sunday.
"That’s something that we’re going to continue to work on and it can go both ways," Bridgewater said. "We get to practice this week and everything that we need to clean up, we’re going to try and make sure we do that."
The Vikings essentially acquired Wallace on a one-year deal; he's due to make $11.5 million next season, but none of that money is guaranteed. Considering Wallace will be 30 next August, it's unlikely the Vikings would bring him back on that deal without a major upswing in his performance during the second half of the year.
As they do with many elements of their passing game, the Vikings' struggles in pass protection certainly touch Wallace's production here. It's hard to develop a downfield passing game without much time to throw, and Wallace's low numbers are at least partially attributable to a number of other factors. He's continued to draw respect from younger teammates, and he hasn't griped publicly about his role after airing his frustrations several times in Miami.
But the receiver's future in Minnesota -- at least at his current salary -- will probably be based on what he does in the final weeks of the season, and as the Vikings try to make a playoff push, it'd certainly help them if Wallace and Bridgewater could connect more often. With rookie Stefon Diggs coming on quickly and Jarius Wright's contract extension set to kick in after this season, now is the time for one of the Vikings' few veterans with Super Bowl experience to assert himself in the team's push for the playoffs.