After nine NFL seasons with four teams, Mike Wallace has experienced enough offensive systems and learned enough playbooks that little surprises the 31-year-old wide receiver.
Yet at 10:11 p.m. on Memorial Day, with the NBA game on in the background, just hours before starting his second week of organized team activities with the Eagles, Wallace studied his new playbook and couldn’t contain his excitement. He took out his phone and sent a tweet about how much he liked what the Eagles playbook offered for his 10th NFL season.
“This is my seventh offense in seven years, so I figured all terms and things start running together in football,” Wallace said. “But when I opened that playbook, it was just different. It gets you excited. It’s top secret, so I can’t tell you too much. But just know it’s great.”
Wallace was coy about offering examples of the intricacies, smiling and making repeated “top secret” references. He acknowledged it’s more complicated than some of the offenses in which he has played. But what has stood out to Wallace is how the system allows for the involvement of so many players. The Eagles are known to spread the ball around. They ranked No. 7 in the NFL in yards last season and tied for No. 2 in points, yet they did not have a 1,000-yard receiver or a 1,000-yard rusher. Four players topped 30 catches and 400 yards. Ten players caught touchdown passes.
“There’s enough to go around for everybody,” Wallace said. “So that’s what makes it great. It’s not just one guy do this. … Just studying my playbook, I got excited. I can see why they score so many points. The type of plays they have, it’s hard for us to learn, so I know it’s going to be hard for defenses to stop.”
Wallace added that the Eagles can put “anybody in any spot,” and coach Doug Pederson is fond of mixing personnel. Look for that to continue this season with the depth the Eagles have assembled on offense. There will be times when they play heavier packages with two tight ends after the addition of Dallas Goedert. They can spread teams out with four wide receivers. They can use multiple running backs, with Darren Sproles as a chess piece. It’s not just one player.
However, Wallace has one role in which he can especially excel. He’s been one of the NFL’s best deep threats since entering the league in 2009. He is averaging 15 yards per catch in his career, ranking fifth in the NFL among active receivers with at least 400 receptions.
Even at Wallace’s age, his production still shows his big-play ability. His eight receptions of 50 or more yards during the last two seasons topped the NFL. His age started with a “3” in both seasons.
Wallace replaces Torrey Smith with the Eagles. Even though Smith was brought in as a deep threat, he had only one catch of 50-plus yards last season. (Smith nonetheless was adept at drawing pass-interference penalties and also forced defenses to worry about his speed.) The Eagles might have an even better deep threat with Wallace.
“Obviously, the first thing that jumps out to you about Mike is his speed,” offensive coordinator Mike Groh said. “So we feel like that gives us a home run threat. Much the same way that Torrey did. So, we’re still getting to know Mike and his game, and he’s still trying to learn the system, so that will be an evolution there.”
Throughout the spring, Wallace has appeared to be a quick study. He has looked like a good fit in the system while taking the first-team snaps on the outside. As a veteran player who’s respected in the league, he has assimilated quickly with his new teammates. He joked that he needs to develop personalized handshakes because he’s still stuck on the high-five level.
There has been only one bothersome part of the transition. Before the canceled White House visit, meetings were held with the returning players who experienced last year’s Super Bowl. Whether it was the White House visit or the coming ring ceremony, there were matters that didn’t apply to newcomers. And Wallace, who has played in a Super Bowl but didn’t hoist the Lombardi Trophy, wants an invitation.
“I want to be a part of the meetings,” Wallace said. “So next year, when they have new guys come in, and I’m still fortunate enough to be here, I want to be like, ‘You can’t come to the meeting!’ …I’m happy for those guys. I want to be there when they get their rings, see it. But at the same time, I want my own. That’s my goal. That’s why I’m here.”