Throughout most of the offseason and the preseason, there was discussion of the role the Miami Dolphins envisioned for defensive end Cameron Wake in 2016. At 34-years old., Wake is coming off a major injury after an Achilles tear ended his 2015 season early, and there has been a lot of talk about the team transitioning him from a true starting defensive end into a "pass-rush specialist," similar to the role Jason Taylor held near the end of his career.
The Dolphins, however, have never full acknowledged that idea, and have Wake listed as the top defensive end on the depth chart, paired with Mario Williams as the starters. Miami defensive coordinator Vance Joseph discussed the role of Wake on Tuesday, and he admitted that Wake, despite the depth chart listing, will not be the first player out on the field for the team in most situations.
"In our first and second down package, which is obviously more run and mixed play-action pass, Jason Jones will be the starting end along with Mario Williams," Joseph explained. "Cam (Wake) will be used some on first and second down but mostly in pass rush situations. I think if we chose to, he could be a starter on every down. But I think, just keeping him healthy and allowing him to be a dominant pass rusher - taking some downs off of him - makes us better and allows him to be fresher for 16 weeks."
It is not overly surprising that the team is looking for ways to keep Wake fresh throughout the year and wants to focus him primarily on getting after opposing quarterbacks. It is interesting that, in finally admitting Wake will not necessarily start despite being a starter, Joseph said it will be Jones who sees those first- and second-down snaps. Jones had a good preseason, but it seemed like the team was setting up Andre Branch to be the third defensive end behind Wake and Williams. Jones, who was the starting defensive end for the Detroit Lions the past three years before joining Miami as a free agent this year, is strong in setting the edge, turning running backs back inside, which will make him an asset for Miami on those first- and second-down games.
Joseph clearly envisions a constant rotation among his defensive linemen, with Wake, Williams, Jones, Branch, and Terrence Fede all available at defensive end, while Ndamukong Suh, Earl Mitchell, Julius Warmsley, and Jordan Phillips are at defensive tackle. "Having a rotation helps those guys, at the end of the game, be fresh enough to finish the game off," Joseph told reporters. "So Cameron (Wake), not playing a lot of first and second down reps, when the game is on the line, he can finish it for us."
Cameron Wake may be listed as a starter, but the Dolphins are clearly looking at him as a finisher.