After 15 years of terrorizing the likes of Tom Brady (Favorite QB to sack), Jim Harbaugh (First QB sack) and….Tom Brady (most sacks against) and 139 career sacks, Jason Taylor will play his last game for the Miami Dolphins, signaling his retirement from
the National Football League. He was the face of the Dolphins during the 2000′s and was easily the most popular Dolphin as well, at least with the females fans and Dancing with the Stars enthusiasts. There is no doubt he’ll be missed, as the Dolphins were in the t0p ten in defensive scoring in seven of his with the team, as well as in the locker room where he was a veteran voice and brain to pick.
But like any player that wasn’t the first, there was someone that came before. Somebody who left a
pair of substantially sized cleats to fill. Before Jason exlpoded onto the seen in 1997, taking down current 49er’s head coach and last Colts QB (Prior to this year) to quarterback a Colts Jim Harbaugh for his first sack, Jeff Cross was perusing through t he Dolphins defense doing his best to make life for the opposing QB living hell. Before Jeff Cross got his chance, there was Bob Baumhower, Glenn Blackwood and Doug Betters. I would say that Jason has done a tremendous justice to his predecessors and to the city of Miami.
With that said, it is time for him to take his toes out of the Aqua and Coral cleats dissinffect them and pass them on to the next great Dolphin defender. Karlos Dansby is a great player and definitely a candidate to fill those shoes, but I don’t feel he is the force that Taylor was and the fact that he is not orignally a Dolphin takes away from his ability to appease that role. Koa Misi, Jared Odrick and Philip Merling are very promising and exciting pieces of the Dolphins future, but still have things to prove on the field and in on the trainer’s table.
But then there is a Cameron Wake. Caaameron Wake.
Now he’s got some potential.
Aside from the misfortune of sharing a name with a certain former Ted Ginn Jr. fan, Cameron Wake just may be the one to step in to those shoes on defense and in the locker room to draw that circle in the air, rear back and punch right through IT and offensive lines like Taylor and sackamasters past.
In The Box Score
Cameron Wake DID get a late start to his NFL career but lets not hold that against him. Its hard to believe that, while he was becoming the Canadian Football League’s first player ever to win both the Defensive Rookie and Player of the Year in the same year, tallying 16 sacks and 74 tackles, that he could have flourished in a pass rush role somewhere in the NFL. After his 23 sack campaign that netted a second consecutive Defensive Player of the Year award and a spot on the All Decade CFL team, after only two seasons, he was signed by the Dolphins and brought his quarterback breaking talents to South Beach. Since his first start for the Dolphins in game 4 of the 2009 season, Cameron Wake has started 30 games and has 28 sacks. Last year he was third in the league with 14 and has been a force for the Dolphins in the mold of one Jason Taylor. He’s truly a box score champ and can fill it up in any scheme. It would be amazing to see Jeff Ireland and Steve Ross bring in a Head Coach and Defensive coordinator that can maximize our linebackers output but that is whole different article.
In the Locker Room
“I am very hard to please,”
“I would have said last season wasn’t a good season. Honestly. There were opportunities I had to have an even better season last year. And I didn’t make it happen. I’m harder on myself than any of you guys, coaches, any of the guys in [the locker room]. There was a lot more I could have done last year.”
“This whole season has seen everyone lining up excuses”…”[0-7 start, Henne's Injury, Sparano's firing] Why don’t you just quit?”…this team’s not built that way.”
Who does that sound like? Demanding of others. Check. More demanding and self-deprecating of himself than of others. Check. Never say quit attitude. Check. Yeah, that sounds just like Pennsylvania native Jason Taylor. Also like Taylor, Wake spent time in school in the cold, football first state of PA, as Captain and defensive standout for the Penn State Nittany Lions. Both players, are tough, hard to please self-motivators that never feel satisfied. its no surprise that the Dolphins defense ranked in the top 10 in defensive scoring 7 out of 13 years Taylor was a Dolphin and has jump from 25th in Wake’s first season, to 14th in his second, to 8th this year.
Some say great players let their play speak for themselves but it’s undeniable the mark Wake has made on the league in his short career. Everyone has taken notice. His teammates, the media, super bowl champs and even the hardest QB in the business to take down have thoughts on the Dolphins brightest Defensive star:
“He’s doing some great things. He’s a very physical rusher. It doesn’t even matter if he’s being blocked he seems to find a way to either throw guys off of him or run through them. He’s making plays left-and-right like it’s nothing.”
- Ben Roethlisberger
“He’s looking real promising and his closing speed is amazing. It’s rare to find, and I thought I had great closing speed but Cam’s set me back a little.”
- Karlos Dansby
“He’s a disruptive player, has been since he’s been in the league.”
- Bill Belichick
“It’s not an exact science and personnel guys aren’t the end-all, be-all. Unfortunately, he had to
take a tough route to get here, but we’re glad he’s here. And he’s very, very deserving of being here – and there’s a lot of guys that he should have been here in front of, but he never let that get him down.”
- Jason Taylor
It is always a sobering moment to see a Great, franchise type player leave the game for good. Csonka. Griese. Marino. And Now Taylor. But every time one steps down, we look for someone to step up to the challenge, put on the shoes, and run with them. Luckily for the Dolphins, the next Great is already on the job, sealing his place on the Dolphins one rattling hit at a time.