Sixteen years after Jerry Rice established a new single-season record with 1,848 receiving yards, Mike Wallace has set his sights set on the mark.
Maybe Wallace is dreaming, guilty of the naiveté classically associated with dudes his age. The Steelers receiver, after all, is only 25 years old, making him nine when Rice broke Charley Hennigan’s 44-year-old record in 1995.
But that 1,848 mark isn’t one that is expected to survive this deep ball-saturated era of professional football. In the same year that Rice set the new mark, a 23-year-old Isaac Bruce also trumped Hennigan, compiling 1,781 yards to Hennigan’s 1,746. Eleven of the top 12 receiving seasons in NFL history have taken place in the time between then and now.
But Wallace plans on being the first player to eclipse Rice’s mega-season. And he plans to do it in style, becoming the first receiver to ever hit the 2K plateau:
“Me personally, I have big goals,” he told the Beaver County Times. “I plan to get 2,000 yards.”
What Wallace has going for him is an abnormally high yards-per-reception average. In his two-year career, the former Mississippi star has averaged 20.3 yards per catch. Rice did that only once in his career. Bruce, Marvin Harrison and Torry Holt never once got to 20.0.
In 2010, among receivers with at least 20 grabs, only Philadelphia’s DeSean Jackson was able to join Wallace in the twenties, but Jackson isn’t targeted as often as Wallace.
And targets are the issue if Wallace wants to hit the double century mark. The more a receiver is thrown to, the more coverage he presumably receives. And as a deep ball specialist, it’s highly unlikely that Wallace catches 80 or 100 balls without becoming a greater presence on short routes, which in turn would probably lower his average.
Last year, Wallace made 60 receptions while averaging 21.0 yards per grab. Even if he maintains that ridiculous average, Wallace would have to catch 89 passes to break Rice’s record and 96 to surpass the 2,000-yard mark.
Wallace breaks it down in similar fashion: “I figure that if I average 20 yards a catch this year and catch 100 balls, that will be 2,000 yards.”
Mathematically speaking, he figures correctly, but that leaves quite a lot of work to be done on the football field.
Even if he falls short of 2,000 or Rice’s record, I guess the point is that we should probably expect even bigger things in 2011 from one of the league’s fastest players as he only begins the climb toward his prime.