Thursday, September 27, 2012

No sacks, no problem: Dolphins' Wake still dominant


The Miami Dolphins' front office drew much criticism this offseason. But there was one move no one questioned -- the contract extension of star pass rusher Cameron Wake.

Wake has been playing like a man possessed so far under his new contract. He has yet to record a sack in 2012, but his 21 total QB pressures is most of any player in the league, via Pro Football Focus.

“I think the kid is playing his tail off," Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said, according to the team's media department. "If you watch the tape, he’s playing his tail off. He’s playing the run very well, he’s knocking the quarterback down a bunch; we’d love him to get more sacks and I’m sure he would. But boy he is playing hard and playing fast."

Miami's most consistent defender was rewarded with a four-year, $49 million extension in May and is proving that he was worth every penny. The Dolphins now have one of the game's most feared pass rushers locked up through 2016.

In last Sunday's loss, Wake terrorized New York Jets' tackle Austin Howard, recording an astounding 11 combined QB hits and hurries in the game. He also drew a holding penalty for the third time this season.

Pass rushing production isn't limited to sacks, but it's interesting that Wake has yet to take down a quarterback. Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle believes this is party due to the quarterback's anticipation that Wake will penetrate the pocket.

"The quarterbacks have been feeling the pressure and stepping up into the pocket, so we have to generate some more push up inside that won’t allow them to step up into the pocket to get away from the outside edge rushers," Coyle said. "That’s an area we need to improve on."

Regardless, Wake's presence has been trouble for offensive lines and forced quarterbacks to adjust. And his dominance isn't limited to pass rushing; he has been a force in run defense, garnering Pro Football Focus' second highest run stopping grade among defensive ends.

As Coyle introduced a new 4-3 defensive scheme during Miami's training camp, there was some consternation that Wake would not be as effective as in years past. But he's making it clear that he is a transcendent talent, and one that will be in Dolphins' uniform for a long time.

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