Written by Chris Perkins of the Sun-Sentinel
Dolphins defensive end Derrick Shelby had a decent season last year, posting 34 tackles (two for losses), 2.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles in limited action.
But Shelby, the third-year player who was undrafted out of Utah, knew he had to be better, starting with his conditioning. So he enlisted the best man for that job – Pro Bowl defensive end Cam Wake, who is probably among the most physically fit players in the NFL. To Shelby, seeking help from Wake was natural. They have an unspoken bond.
“He came in the same way I came in -- undrafted, having to prove himself,” Shelby said of Wake, who was undrafted out of Penn State, “and look at him now, a Pro Bowler, so why not take notes from that guy?”
The results of the “Cam Wake Off-Season Program” have been impressive. Shelby, with his quicker first step, is now contending for a job in the Dolphins’ Speed Package, the pass-rush grouping that features four speedy defensive ends whose sole purpose is making life miserable for quarterbacks.
“I don’t want to say it was an issue (last season),” Shelby said, “but my burst has gotten better. Running extra with Cam definitely helps…He runs a little bit too much. In the weight room I can usually keep up.”
As it turns out, conditioning is a big part of Wake’s offseason workouts. Wake, the three-time Pro Bowl selection known for his high motor and unrelenting pursuit of the quarterback, especially in the fourth quarter, demands more of himself, and that’s the way he trains.
“As a D-end, rushing against guys that weigh a hundred pounds more than you, it’s third-and-10 in the fourth quarter and everybody’s looking at you like you have to have more gas in the tank, you have to get to the quarterback or you have to chase that running back down,” Wake said.
“So I put a different standard on myself, I’m going to run with the DB’s (defensive backs), I don’t care if I’m 260 (pounds), I’m going to run with (cornerback) Brent Grimes and (wide receiver) Mike Wallace and whoever. I’m going to make their time.”
Potentially, Shelby could thrive and elevate the Dolphins’ defensive ends foursome into the top playmaking unit on the team.
Defensive ends accounted for 22.5 of the Dolphins’ 52 sacks (42 percent) last season. They also forced four of the 12 fumbles (33 percent) the defense caused. They were the biggest playmaking group on the defense along with the cornerbacks and wide receivers.
In the ideal scenario, Shelby and Jordan improve to the point that they join with Wake (8.5 sacks last season) and Vernon (team-high 11.5 sacks) and make the Dolphins’ defensive ends one of the most disruptive crews in the NFL.
Shelby’s improved stamina could mean he’s also suited to play in the nickel package as well as the Speed package or the normal defense on third downs. Shelby is hoping all of that comes to fruition.
“The season is still a long way away,” he said, “but coach always says the more you can do, the better, so I’m just trying to see where I fit in with this great group of guys we have.”
If Shelby maintains his conditioning there’s a good chance he’ll earn a regular spot somewhere on a defensive grouping.
“I feel like I’ve been doing pretty good,” Shelby said. “I feel like I have a nice little burst. My conditioning is finally up to level. Once those things come on you can finally show what you can do.”