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Why Mike Wallace Thinks He'll Be Better Despite Less Speed


It's not a good sign for a veteran wide receiver when the numbers start dropping.

But despite admitting he might not have the same top-end speed of his younger years, new Raven Mike Wallace believes he's in store for a big season in Baltimore.

"I think I'll get better this year, and I'll show some people I have a lot up my sleeve," Wallace said after Tuesday's minicamp practice.

Wallace's best year came in just his second NFL season (2010) when he posted 60 catches for 1,257 yards and 10 touchdowns in Pittsburgh. Since then, his production has dropped from the previous season in every year but one (2013).

Last year in Minnesota, Wallace posted career lows across the board with 39 catches, 473 receiving yards and two touchdowns. That's why Wallace was let go by the Vikings, allowing the Ravens to snatch him in free agency with the hope that he can turn things around.

So why does Wallace think that will happen?

It's a combination of situation and experience making up for a downtick in flat-out speed.

Wallace ran the 40-yard dash in a blazing 4.33 seconds when he was entering the 2009 NFL Draft. It was the second-fastest time of any prospect behind wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. That seems like a long time ago now.

"I've probably run about 10,000 post-routes and go-routes since when I first came into the league, so [I've lost] maybe just a step, a half a step," Wallace said. "But I can still get it done."

Wallace has still found his way behind Ravens cornerbacks and safeties in Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and minicamp. His speed has impressed safety Lardarius Webb, and Wallace's name was the first out of safety Eric Weddle's mouth when asked which offensive players he's been impressed with so far.

"Mike Wallace has been outstanding," Weddle said. "I'm trying to push him every day. We're both in the same boat. We can't have a day off, we can't have a lackadaisical day out there. We're out here to prove ourselves and add something to this team."

Wallace was an everyday participant throughout voluntary OTAs. When asked by a reporter why he showed up for the voluntary sessions, Wallace seemed puzzled. If he didn't show up, he wouldn't know the plays, he said.

He needs to know those plays because, if fellow wide receiver Breshad Perriman is slow to recover from his knee injury, Wallace could be Baltimore's lone outside speed merchant at the start of the season.

"I welcomed the challenge even before Breshad got hurt," Wallace said. "That's my guy; I envisioned us both making plays and us both being a threat for this team. So, my plans don't change."

Head Coach John Harbaugh agrees, and sees Wallace doing a lot more than just going deep.

"I think he's just done a tremendous job as an all-around receiver, and he's going to be a big part of what we're doing this year," Harbaugh said.

It's Wallace's ability to do more than just make the big play that makes him more well-rounded now than when he went to the Pro Bowl as a Steeler. As Harbaugh said Tuesday, Wallace runs all the routes, has good hands and is a smart player.

Wallace said his experience practicing against top-flight cornerbacks at all the places he's played – from Ike Taylor in Pittsburgh, Brent Grimes in Miami and Xavier Rhodes in Minnesota – has molded him.

"It's unfortunate when you switch teams, but sometimes it makes you better because you go against different guys," Wallace said. "I went against small, tall, big, fast, strong – all types of different guys. So, just playing against some great guys coming through these last three or four years, I think I've gotten better, even though numbers don't say so."

It's also about being in the right place to flourish, and Wallace feels he's finally found that in Baltimore. Once big-armed quarterback Joe Flacco steps back on the field in training camp, it should be even more apparent that Wallace's speed and Baltimore's attack are a match.

Wallace also said the Ravens have more aggressive play-calling than he's had in the past. It's part of why he chose to sign with Baltimore.

Wallace was asked what it's going to take for him to put up stats like he did in Pittsburgh. That may be difficult to accomplish in Baltimore with so many targets around him at wide receiver, tight end and running back, but Wallace will get his chances.

"It's just a matter of opportunity," he said. "I was in some different situations, and those are what they are, but I'm looking for a fresh start. I'm here, and this team gives me a chance to do the things that I like to do and the things that I'm best at."

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