(This is longer than I intended it to be, but if you get tired of Cameron Wake love, at least check out the last section.)
I make no secret of the fact that the player I am most excited to see play next year is Cameron Wake.
Sure, I am jonesing to see how Henne's progress is coming, what our two cornerbacks have learned, how ferocious our line can be, Ronnie Brown back in action, BRANDON MARSHALL catching everything in sight, Hartline's progress, Dansby patrolling the middle, etc.
But I am most stoked about Wake.I think he will finally start and I think he will excel.
So here's my prediction: Cameron Wake becomes a Pro Bowler.
It is an extremely bold prediction, I know. But it is not out of left field. I am not predicting a rookie's success, I am predicting that success of a player who dominated last year on the NFL level, albeit in limited snaps. A domination that was really under-reported, likely due to the Joey Porter situation that the coaching staff, frankly, bungled badly.
First, a few unbelievable numbers from last year:Wake saw only 167 snaps. For contrast:
(all numbers are for last season)
Jason Taylor - 828
Joey Porter - 755
Cameron Wake - 167
Roughly, Wake saw about ONE-FIFTH the number of snaps of the two now ex-Dolphins. But even in 1/5th the snaps, here are some totals:
Jason Taylor - 8
Joey Porter - 9
Cameron Wake - 7
Jason Taylor - 20
Joey Porter - 11
Cameron Wake - 20
Jason Taylor - 4
Joey Porter - 5
Cameron Wake - 6
Those numbers make Wake, snap for snap, the best pass rusher in the NFL last year. They are unbelievable.
Now, that doesn't make him the greatest OLB, of course.Don't get all upset that I am slighting any of the greats. I am not claiming Wake was the best overall OLB or even overall pass rusher. I am simply saying that his ratio of production/opportunity was the best in the league. (Barring some dude who played one down and got a sack or something, but I couldn't find anything like that.)
But let's look at some more numbers:
His 167 snaps consisted of:
134 -pass rush plays
30 - run defense
3 - pass defense
What was interesting is that he actually made nice plays in his 3 pass defense chances, getting a +1.5 rating by Pro Football Focus (about the same as all the OLB's). Against the rush he was about average, getting a -.6 overall - in the same ballpark as Charlie Anderson and Porter, but not nearly as good as Taylor (who was always underrated against the run).On pass rush snaps Wake got a 24.5 (!) rating. Taylor was 4.3 and Porter was -6.8 (yep. Negative. Overrated windbag. Good riddance.)
Keep in mind that those rating number from PFF are based on analysts grading every player on every play, so the rating is not an average, it is cumulative. Also, a zero rating is just average. It means you did your job, without screwing up or excelling. A zero on any given play is not a bad thing. A zero overall, though, is not worth writing home about. The point is that Wake had fewer opportunities to make his ratings go up OR down. But that makes his high ratings more impressive, not less, because you simply have no way to raise your rating but to make impact plays.Does that make sense? It isn't an average because he had one good game (like normal quarterback ratings, etc.), that's not how it works.Think of it this way... if you had a good game to start the season and got your rating up to +4, when you start the next game, your rating starts at +4 and you can either add to it or subtract from it.Your end rating will be your overall season, not your average.
Sorry to belabor that point, but it confused me at first until I read through their methodology.
You can find more of their ratings (fascinating stuff) here.
Anyway, the point (finally) is that Wake had an overall rating (including rush, pass rush and pass and penalties) of 24.5.
That made him, even in limited snaps, the highest rated performer on our defense. Starks was second with 24.4, then Langford (13.0) and Taylor (11.6).
(The worst? Frigging Porter (-8.9), and also terrible were Crowder (-6.8) and Adoleye(-8.6).)
Bottom line is that even in a part time role, Wake was dominant. Like really dominant. He only saw more than 15 snaps in a game twice, and he was outstanding:
Buffalo @ Miami - 25 snaps: 3 sacks, 1 qb hit, 1 qb pressure, 2 tackles and 4 stops.
Tampa Bay @ Miami - 33 snaps: 1 sack, 9 (!) QB pressures, 1 tackle, 2 stops.
Those are unreal stat lines.
He had one bad game (first Jets game, only Wake's 3rd NFL appearance) where he screwed up two plays, one against the rush and one against the pass, in 8 snaps. Other than that it is hard to find any misfires against the run or the pass or, of course, rushing.
Not bad for a rookie who had to learn an all new approach to defense (not just scheme, but even basics, like defenses having to start a full yard from scrimmage in Canada).
I was looking for the weaknesses in his game that the staff talked about, but they were not showing up on the field. I am sure they existed and I am sure concerns were valid, but they were not valid enough to keep him off the field.
So, there is no doubt that Wake was dominant in his limited snaps.The big question that everybody wanted the answer to last year was why were his snaps limited in the first place?
The media, quite rightly, hounded the FO with that question as Wake continued to dominate.The stock answer from the coach was that he had a lot of work to do in other phases of his game. This became the stock answer of everybody from fans to sportswriter and was widely accepted as truth, it is said automatically, without really thinking about how true it was.
This answer was, not to mince words, bullshit. (I have no doubt that it was somewhat true, but I have enormous doubts about it being completely true.)
(And this is not impugning their integrity. 90% of what our coach and FO say is bullshit. Intentionally. They rarely see any reason to tell anybody anything of their plans - and who can blame them for that? )
Again, I am not saying it is bullshit that he had a lot of work to do, I am saying that it is bullshit that that was why his snaps were so limited.
How do I know it was bullshit? Two reasons.
1. Like I said, I watched every Wake play and saw little sign of the deficiencies they kept talking about.
2. They DID play Porter, who was so bad against the run that for Wake to be worse, he would have had to start speaking in tongues and punching his own teammates as soon as the ball was snapped.
If you have one option that MIGHT suck and one option that DOES suck, saying the might suck guy isn't playing because he might suck is bullshit.
So then what was the real reason for not playing Wake?I Much like the pick of Odrick... I knew their was a good reason, but we didn't learn what it was until later.)
But the real reason Wake wasn't playing was: Joey Frigging Porter, of course.
1. We knew already that Sparano treated Porter differently than any other player. He had a weird, almost fawning approach to Porter that always bugged me. It was out of character for Sparano. Now matter how much Porter sucked in a game, Sparano would praise him effusively, something he does with no other player. It was very weird.
2. We know now that Joey Porter was pulling a massive diva act, refusing to come off the field for some 3rd downs later in the season (possibly costing us games by the way. Look at Wake's pass rush numbers again and remember some 3rd downs that we could really have used a big play.
The biggest reason that Wake didn't play more was because they didn't want to sit Joey Porter (and Jason Taylor was actually producing.)
(FUN FACT - Only 2 out of 9 of Joey Porter's sacks came in games we won. 6 out of 7 of Wake's sacks came in wins.)
Outside of Ronnie Brown getting injured, Joey Porter was the worst thing to happen to the Dolphins last year. He made our defense worse and kept us from seeing more Wake and taking bread and butter 3rd down plays away from Taylor.
But eventually even Sparano grew tired of Joey's crap and sat him for a game. (I would have cut him, personally. How many times do you let a player screw up your defensive schemes? Better yet, how many times do you let an ineffective player screw up your defensive schemes?)
Why I am optimistic he will finally start:
1. Joey Porter is gone.
2. You don't let Taylor walk if you aren't dead sure you have one OLB starter. Period. I just can't imagine it.
3. We drafted LB heavy, but all but Misi (and possibly Edds, but he should be ILB) are long term developmental prospects. If we had not planned on Wake playing one side for sure, I am convinced we would have drafted OLB's one and two (liked we did with CB last year) and either lived with Solai at nose or drafted a NT later. The OLB's are too important in Nolan's system to count on a lower selection to pan out.
The only wildcard in my logic here is Charlie Anderson. I hear that Sparano loves him, but honestly I don't see why. Like him? Sure. Love him? Don't get it. He played about as many snaps as Wake last year and was about 10% as effective, but Sparano still gave him 150 snaps. So maybe Charlie Anderson is their planned starter. But I just don't see Nolan getting excited about him, compared to Wake or Misi.
One last thing, and bear with me because this is really cool. Football outsiders evaluated all pass rushers drafted in the 1st and 2nd rounds since 1998 and tried to find what the ones who became successful in the NFL had in common. They call the formula SackSEER, and you can find more about it here. In a nutshell they found that 4 variables had the biggest common impact on whether or not a player would be a successful NFL pass rusher.
Two of the variables were about college stats: weighted total sack production and total missed games for any reason other than coming out early for the draft - medical, suspensions, etc.
The two measurables, though, were what interested me... the two biggest physical predictors of success were:
1. Short shuttle time. This years prospect ranged from around 4.15 (Jerry Huges) to 4.67(soon to be bust-o-licious Jean Pierre-Paul) 4.15 is great. The record may be Demarcus Ware's 4.07.
2. Vertical leap. This year's prospects range from 30.5" (horrible, and guess who? Jean Pierre-Paul) to the best at 35.5" (again, Jerry Hughes.)
So their overall best pass-rushing prospect in the entire draft was Jerry Hughes, with a 4.15 short shuttle and a 35.5" vertical leap.
Now, check out Cameron Wake:
4.12 short shuttle speed (identical to Jevon Kearse, by the way)
and a, wait for it...
45.5" vertical leap. 45.5"! (Only one other combine prospect since 1998 has had a vertical over 45", a safety in 2005 had a 46".)
This is a good time to throw this video up, in case any hasn't seen it. Locker room bet in Canada.
If that didn't work, click here.
To finally finish, I believe the front office knows what they have. I believe they will start Wake. And I believe that he will become an NFL star.
Mike Nolan is going to absolutely love this guy.