The Miami Dolphins welcomed back Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake on Thursday, getting him into game action for the first time since he tore his Achilles tendon back in October. Wake came into the game against the Atlanta Falcons and immediately made an impact, hitting quarterback Matt Ryan on his first snap of the game.
“Just trying to go back to ways of old,” Wake said of getting to hit the quarterback on his first snap. “It has been awhile since I’ve actually played in a lot of games, 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.”
The Dolphins have been very deliberate with Wake this offseason and training camp, making sure he stays fresh and protects his Achilles tendon while also allowing him to work his way back into football shape. Throughout the offseason, the speculation has been that the Dolphins could look to use Wake more as a “pass rush specialist” rather than an every-down defensive end. On Thursday, that was exactly how the team used Wake, giving him just five snaps. He recorded the one quarterback hit during those plays.
“That was kind of the plan,” head coach Adam Gase said after the game. He then admitted that, leading up to Thursday night, he had been deliberately vague with what the team was planning to do with Wake. “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. The goal is to make sure he plays 16-plus games, and tonight was a good first step for us.”
Wake was asked for his thoughts on being a pass rusher instead of a full-time defensive end, and whether that will continue into the season, “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. Whatever the area that is best suited – especially 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.”
There is still more Wake needs to do to get himself back to 100 percent before the season, and Wake will admit he still needs some work. “That’s the truth,” Wake said when asked about Gase saying the defensive end was not at 100 percent yet.” 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.”
The Dolphins will host the Tennessee Titans next Thursday in the final preseason game of the year. The regular season opener will be September 11 at the Seattle Seahawks.