The Vikings replaced Greg Jennings with Mike Wallace because they believed Wallace would make more big plays. He has outperformed Jennings this season but has not produced the plays the Vikings coveted.
Wallace is on pace for the worst season of his career. At this rate, he would finish the regular season with 45 catches for 509 yards and two touchdowns. And that’s only if he continues on his season-long pace. If he is going to continue on the pace he has set over the past four games, the Vikings may as well cut him now.
Over his past four games, Wallace has totaled two catches for 26 yards. In the Vikings’ biggest game since 2012, last Sunday against Green Bay, he dropped one pass — which would have extended the Vikings’ first drive with a first down near midfield, and possibly have led to the first score of the game — and caught none.
He hasn’t produced 40 yards receiving or a touchdown in a game since Oct. 4, when he had his best game of the season, at Denver, with eight catches for 83 yards and a touchdown on a misdirection play that left him wide open in the end zone. He has not produced a gain of more than 22 yards this season.
The Vikings have tried to build through the draft but have desperately sought veteran receivers since Rick Spielman took over as general manager. Bernard Berrian was occasionally productive but ultimately disappointing. Jennings underperformed after intentionally leaving Aaron Rodgers for Christian Ponder, trading in a future Hall of Famer for a future journeyman third-stringer.
Wallace has been the worst of the lot in terms of production and value. He is making about $10 million and getting worse as the year progresses.
To evaluate Wallace fairly, I watched every offensive play of the Vikings season. The breakdown:
Week 1 at San Francisco: Wallace got a step on Antoine Bethea. Bridgewater threw a perfect pass. Bethea (below) held Wallace’s left arm. Instead of a 46-yard touchdown or a pass-interference penalty that would have given the Vikings a first-and-goal from the one, the play was ruled incomplete. Instead of gaining a 7-0 lead, the Vikings would lose 20-3.
Week 4 at Denver: Bridgewater overthrew Wallace on what should have been a touchdown.
Week 6 vs. Kansas City: Wallace couldn’t pull in a catch on the sidelines that he might have been able to make. He got open deep again, and again Bridgewater overthrew him.
Week 7 at Detroit: At Detroit, Wallace (below) got open deep on a play that could have produced a touchdown but did draw a penalty. Bridgewater again overthrew Wallace later in the game on a play that could have produced a touchdown.
Week 8 at Chicago: Bridgewater twice failed to connect with Wallace on two long passes for touchdowns. On the first, Bridgewater appeared to throw a bit high, although Wallace seemed to be in position to make a play. On the second, Wallace seemed to fail to make an effort on another ball that was slightly overthrown, and later said he lost it in the sun.
Week 9 vs. St. Louis: Bridgewater missed Wallace on what should have been a 36-yard touchdown.
Week 10 at Oakland: Bridgewater missed Wallace for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Week 11 vs. Green Bay: Bridgewater again missed Wallace downfield (below).
Wallace has gotten open deep often enough to score up to 10 touchdowns this season. Twice, he was interfered with. Eight times, Bridgewater has overthrown him. This calls into question Wallace’s speed as well as Bridgewater’s accuracy. When Bridgewater overthrew Stefon Diggs at Detroit, Diggs made a diving catch in the end zone. Wallace has not, in the vernacular, “laid out’’ for a single one of Bridgewater’s deep passes. His lack of recent production may indicate a loss of finishing speed, or a lack of faith in him by the quarterback.
Wallace has not produced 1,000 receiving yards in a season since 2011. He has produced one play of longer than 50 yards since 2012.
Wallace has set himself up to be cut after this season, and perhaps replaced in the starting lineup this season by the younger, more physical Charles Johnson.