FOXBORO -- Devin McCourty knows first hand just how explosive Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace can be.
The Patriots safety witnessed Wallace at the peak of his powers three years ago when New England visited the Pittsburgh Steelers in November of 2010. McCourty, then a rookie cornerback, was one of the defensive backs tasked with slowing Wallace down that Sunday night.
It didn't go very well. Wallace ended up with eight catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns in a game that the Patriots still managed to win, 39-26.
How would McCourty describe Wallace now, three years later?
"Dangerous," McCourty said. "I think that's the first thing when you talk about him. Of course he can catch an under route. But, I mean, an under route for him catching and someone else is totally different. We've seen him catch passes for five yards and turn it into 60 so he's a dangerous guy."
The 27-year-old receiver, who signed a five-year deal with Miami this offseason worth up to $60 million, has 27 catches for 357 yards and a touchdown through six games with the Dolphins.
As a rookie out of Ole Miss in 2009, Wallace ran a 4.33 40-yard dash, and he still serves as one of the league's better deep threats. He also has the ability to make yards after the catch on screens by using his speed, as he did on an 18-yard score this season in Indianapolis.
Wallace ranks 29th in the NFL with 54 targets, and he averages 4.5 catches and 59.5 yards per game.
Though he does not rank in the league's top 40 in receptions, receiving yards (teammate Brian Hartline actually has more receiving yards on the season with 401), yards per catch, touchdowns, receptions over 20 yards or yards after the catch, the Patriots know that Wallace can break a game open in an instant.
That's something he did to the Patriots more than once on that November night in Pittsburgh three years ago. The Patriots did a better job on him in a 25-17 loss to the Steelers in 2011, but he still had seven catches for 70 yards.
McCourty and his teammates in the secondary hope to limit Wallace as much as they can this Sunday when the Dolphins visit Gillette Stadium.
"We want to know where he's at every play," McCourty said. "Even though some defenses might not revolve around him, it's just awareness. You want to know where he's at at all times."