When the Minnesota Vikings head to Arizona to take on the Cardinals on Thursday, wide receiver Mike Wallace gets the chance to see a familiar face. Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians was the offensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers when they drafted the speed receiver in the third round of the 2009 draft.
The two worked together through the 2011 season when Arians’ contract expired and he moved on to be the offensive coordinator of the Indianapolis Colts.
This receiver and coach combination, with the assistance of Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback, was able to put up big numbers on the football field and helped lead them to a victory in Super Bowl XLII.
“Oh gosh, dynamic player,” Arians said of Wallace. “Practiced hard, gave it everything he had, one of my favorite guys. He (would) make you hold your breath every time the ball was in the air.”
Wallace had his best season while playing under Arians, but his play has dropped off since their careers took different paths. He has not recorded a 1,000-yard season since 2011, which was his final year playing under Arians, and this season with the Vikings has been a career low for him so far.
Through Week 13 the receiver has 30 receptions for 361 yards and one touchdown. His current career lows are 39 receptions and 759 yards, both of which came from his rookie season in 2009, and five touchdowns, which he recorded in 2013 with the Miami Dolphins.
Arians has been surprised by Wallace’s lack of production so far this season as he thought the combination of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, offensive coordinator Norv Turner and running back Adrian Peterson could lead to a big year for him.
“I thought that would be a really nice combination with him and Teddy,” Arians said. “Believe me, our locker room has a lot of respect for Mike Wallace.”
While studying tape for their matchup this Thursday, Arians has seen plenty of the Vikings offense, but he could not quite put a finger on why Bridgewater and Wallace have not been able to connect all that much this season.
“I don’t know, maybe not being on the same page,” he said. “Obviously Mike was a little more of the focal point of our offense (in Pittsburgh) than he is there. (Adrian Peterson) is the guy, but we know how dangerous he can be.”
The Vikings passing attack has taken a lot of heat in recent weeks and a big part of that is because of the inability for Bridgewater and Wallace to connect. As teams continue to focus on bottling up Peterson it is going to be important that these two get on the same page quickly if they hope to get back to their winning ways.
Unfortunately for them, though, things will not get much easier this week as they will be going up against the Cardinals pass defense, which ranks No. 8 in the NFL. They are averaging just 227.8 passing yards per game allowed this season and have given up just 17 passing touchdowns.
It will be a tough matchup for the Vikings passing attack, but if anyone knows how quickly Wallace is able to turn it around, it’s Arians and he is not planning to sleep on his former receiver.