Wallace excited by ‘legendary’ Turner offense

Mike Wallace is excited to get back to his field-stretching ways in Norv Turner’s offense. Wallace had high praise for Turner’s offense and the possibilities it presents to a deep threat like Wallace.

Mike Wallace knew quite a bit about Norv Turner’s offense before Wallace was traded to the Minnesota Vikings in March.

Wallace’s impressions came from Turner’s success with various wide receivers over the last decade, long after Michael Irvin and Henry Ellard were 1,000-yard receivers under Turner in Dallas and Washington.

From Vincent Jackson in San Diego to Josh Gordon in Cleveland to even Charles Johnson last year in Minnesota, Wallace saw wide receivers having success under Turner.

“I always remember the guys playing in the offense having some big plays. I remember V-Jack playing out in San Diego and then I remember Josh having a great year and then last year C.J. came in late but he was having a great year,” Wallace said. “It’s just guys always being able to make plays and getting the opportunities out there.”

In his first two years with the San Diego Chargers, Jackson was a seldom-used receiver, catching a combined 30 passes in 2005 and 2006. When Turner took over as head coach in 2007, Jackson’s role increased, and by 2008 he was a 1,000-yard receiver.

Gordon had a solid rookie season for the Cleveland Browns in 2012, catching 50 passes for 805 yards in 16 games played. But when Turner became offensive coordinator of the Browns in 2013, Gordon had 87 catches for 1,646 yards in 14 games played, by far the biggest output of his career.

Johnson wasn’t even on the Vikings’ roster at the start of the 2014 season, but once he took over starting duties for Cordarrelle Patterson with just six games to play, Johnson ended the season with 31 catches for 475 yards.

Wallace believes Turner’s passion for the game has plenty to do with the success those receivers experienced. The low-key demeanor Turner presents during press conferences and away from the practice field isn’t the same Turner that players see once practice starts. There is often a blue-streak outburst associated with Turner at some point in practice.

“Coach Turner is on us a lot. 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. It’s passion, and I love that. I played with a lot of coaches with passion. I’m excited about it. He’s a legendary man, probably a future Hall of Famer.”

Part of Wallace’s high praise for Turner has to do with his excitement about how he could fit with the offense.

In his second and third seasons in the league, 2010 and 2011, Wallace was a 1,000-yard receiver with the Pittsburgh Steelers. As a rookie in 2009, he averaged 19.4 yards per catch, then 21.0 and 16.6 in his ensuing two seasons.

But those averages took a significant drop in 2012, his final year in Pittsburgh, and continued his last two seasons with the Miami Dolphins. In 2013, he averaged 12.7 yards per catch. Last year, it was 12.9.

But, now, Wallace sees his field-stretching abilities fitting in perfectly with Turner’s offense in Minnesota.

“It’s seems fun to me. It’s a vertical offense, so I always have fun when you can score long touchdowns,” he said, likening it to his first four years in the league with Pittsburgh rather his last two in Miami.

“He’s a dynamic receiver and he’s been doing a great job of working,” Vikings 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 doesn’t believe learning Turner’s playbook will be an issue. It’s his fifth different offense in his last five years. Essentially, he has experience with being inexperienced in a system.

“Sooner or later concepts start running together and you just have to remember the names of the plays so it’s really not that hard for me to learn the offense,” Wallace said. “It’s only the first two days, but I don’t think I messed up a play yet. It’s only two days, so we have a long way to go. I think I’m grasping the offense pretty good. Hopefully I can continue to improve.”

So far, Wallace has been working exclusively at flanker, but he’s been told to be ready for all the different receiver positions in the offense.

For now, the concentration is getting comfortable with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and making sure they know each other’s tendencies well before the regular season begins. That takes extra work, something both of them have been investing.

“You just have to continue to put the time in. There are days where we stay behind and we complete passes, we work on routes that we may have ran in practice that day,” Bridgewater said as Wallace caught passes on the JUGS machine about 30 yards away following a practice this week.

The goal, however, is to have Wallace catching passes from Bridgewater even further away than that once the seasons starts, and it appears the marriage of Turner, Wallace and Bridgewater could produce that.

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