Although Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake didn’t start last night’s game against the Atlanta Falcons, he played a significant amount of time as a third down specialist in the first half of the Dolphins 17-6 victory. It was his first game action since last October, when he tore the Achilles tendon in his left leg in a game against the New England Patriots.
Wake typically starts and plays early downs, but head coach Adam Gase wanted to ease Wake back into things, and the plan going into this game was to use Wake on third downs and obvious passing downs, when Wake can use his world class edge cutting move to pressure the quarterback.
“That was kind of the plan,” said Gase. “I know we didn't give you guys everything this week as far as what we were going to do, but we wanted him to play on third down. We wanted him to get some rushes in and get back in the feel of the game. That was the plan going into this game.”
Gase said that eventually they want to see Wake playing early downs as well, but since this was the first time Wake has seen the field in ten months, they plan to ease him into that role. Gase also admitted that Wake isn’t quite all the way back to 100%.
Gase explained, “Every day, we're going to do more and more and get him to the point where he feels like its 100 percent, (where) we're back and we're ready to go a certain amount of snaps that we'll talk about throughout the season. The goal is to make sure he plays 16-plus games, and tonight was a good first step for us.”
As for Wake?
“It’s like riding a bike. It's good to be back out there, obviously, playing with the guys and getting a win.”
“It has been awhile since I've actually played in a lot of games,” said Wake. “So I'm taking all the things we've done in practice, all the rehab reps, and all the other stuff I've been doing, finally I'm just playing football, just having fun. You kind of forget all the other stuff by doing what you do best.”
Wake, a notorious workout warrior, has been working diligently to get back to 100%, and he admits he wants to be on the field for every play. But he’s well aware of the possibility of a setback, and the team’s desire to move cautiously as they work him back into the fulltime rotation. He’s close to 100%, but does he feel he’s there yet?
"Probably not,” Wake admits. “That's the truth. There's so much that you can do off the field. I've been working out, doing rehab, a lot of things. But the reality is, football is hard to replicate. You can't in the middle of the offseason, have two guys pushing on you. It just doesn't work that way. It’s coming. Obviously, I had a good step tonight in the right direction.
"I think for the most part, we've been working together from back in November. As far as my recovery and maximizing my skillset for the team … right now working my way back into full time, that's fine with me. Whatever is best for the team. You have to start thinking long term. Of course, I want to be out there for every snap, but is that going to be best come December and January? You got to be honest and smart, and all of us working together, our plan is really good, and so far it's working."
With the fourth and last preseason game looming next week, and roster cuts coming two days later, most veteran players aren’t expected to see game action against the Tennessee Titans. Wake doesn’t yet know if he will have one more opportunity to get some work in before the season opener in Seattle. But he doesn’t sound too concerned.
“It's possible, but again, the game is not the only time you get it. We have quite a few big hogs in there who I fight with every day.”
This story was written by Eldon Jenson. Follow him on Twitter @EJFootball
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