With Miami Dolphins veterans reporting to Training Camp July 26th, Cameron Wake looks to lead a new group including three rookies on the defensive line.
Coming off an torn Achilles in the 2015 season the Miami Dolphins coaching staff was cautious with Cameron Wake early in the 2016 campaign. Miami started the season 0-2 and Wake did not register a single tackle or sack in either game. Adam Gase and former Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph were limiting Wake’s snaps in order to keep him fresh, but he was having trouble finding his rhythm and his productivity suffered.
In Week 3 versus Cleveland Wake finally got on the stat sheet with his first sack but overall his production in the first half of the season was not what was expected from a player of his caliber. Wake tallied just one sack in the Dolphins’ first five games and the Dolphins struggled to a 1-4 record. Gase admitted that perhaps this was a mistake on his part:
"“I made a mistake,” Gase said. “I should have been playing him more early. We were trying to think long term. When we were getting down, it really put us in a bad spot because we didn’t want to stick him out there and all they were doing was pounding the football. We wanted him in there when teams were passing it, we just kept getting behind, and that was putting us at a disadvantage. That’s when we decided we have to make sure he’s out there more. That’s why we made that switch. We thought we were being smart and it backfired on us. We should have just went with … What we should have done was just let him play.”"
Wake turned it up a notch in the next two games versus Pittsburgh and Buffalo adding two more sacks to enter the bye week on a positive note.
Adam Gase and Company realized after the bye that Wake had to be on the field more because after the break he came out and terrorized opponents. Miami tore off four consecutive victories starting in Week 9 and Wake contributed 5.5 sacks in those four games. The Dolphins went 7-2 after the bye and earned their first playoff berth since 2008 and Wake finished the year with 11.5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, and even notched his first career interception.
The Dolphins first round pick Charles Harris, along with rookie defensive tackles Vincent Taylor and Davon Godchaux will surely look to Wake and Ndamukong Suh for leadership. Wake showed in the second half of 2016 that he is still a dominant force at defensive end. Look for him to be involved early and often on different down and distance situations. With Harris along with Andre Branch in the pass rush mix, Wake can come out of the gates at full speed in 2017 and make an immediate impact.