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JT Dishes On Wake And More At TD Club Luncheon

Posted Dec 11, 2012

Miami’s all-time sack leader weighs in on Wake and the team.

Just when opposing quarterbacks thought they could breathe a little easier after former Miami Dolphins defensive end/linebacker Jason Taylor retired, his protégé has taken his game to a new level.

Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake has matched his career-high with 14 sacks and still has three games left to play, so to hear Taylor talk about the former CFL star this afternoon at the Miami Dolphins Touchdown Club luncheon was enlightening. Those in attendance at Bokamper’s Sports Bar & Grill in Miramar left feeling a little more educated on the game of football and more appreciative of Wake and what the Dolphins go through each and every Sunday.

“Cam has a very special set of skills and we knew from day one he’d be good,” Taylor said. “It’s no surprise to us and I’m glad it’s working out for him. I love watching him play. He’s a fun kid to be around and I wish I was still his teammate, but it’s fun watching him. If I was starting a team and needed a defensive end, he’d be the first guy I’d call.”

Taylor retired at the end of last season with 139.5 career sacks, the most among active players, and now he gets to watch the game through a different lens as an analyst for ESPN. His 15 years of experience, which yielded six Pro Bowls, one Defensive Player of the Year award in 2006 and the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2007, give Taylor unique credentials for his new job.

During his playing career, Taylor heard some of the same knocks and doubts about his potential that Wake heard because of his size. Even though he towered over many offensive linemen at 6-foot-6, what he lacked in bulk led some to question how effective he could be as a pass rusher and defending the run. Taylor can laugh at that now, and when he hears some reports of surprise concerning Wake’s prowess against the run, he flashes that same confident grin.

“I don’t see it as him picking up his game against the run because he’s always been good at it,” said Taylor, who spent 13 of his seasons in Miami, one with the Washington Redskins (2008) and one with the New York Jets (2010). “People will doubt his size and whether he’d be able to hold up or withstand the punishment but I heard that for a dozen years. Cam’s kicking ass and it comes as no surprise. Even when the numbers aren’t there the things he does to affect the game like the holding calls and the false starts, all the things that defensive players need to do to affect games, he does that a very, very high level.”

Defense is obviously Taylor’s area of expertise, but in his first year away from the game he has forced himself to become more versed in all aspects of football. As an expert analyst for the largest national television sports network the demands placed him on him require that type of knowledge.

So when it comes time for Taylor to critique the Dolphins and specifically some of his former teammates it presents a bit of a challenge. Linebacker Kevin Burnett was the player guest at the Touchdown Club and former linebacker Bob Brudzinski was the alumni guest, so there was a broad perspective being covered. This was the first time Taylor was touted as the media guest and he did not disappoint as he weighed in on the 2012 Dolphins.

“I think they started out pretty good and surprised some people outside of that locker room,” Taylor said. “I know the guys in there believed and the team has some talent. Unfortunately, they had a couple of subtractions and didn’t add enough pieces but it takes time to grow these things. You had a change in coordinators, a change in the head coach and a change in quarterback and those things are hard to just bounce back from and come out and win 10, 11 or 12 ballgames. So let the team grow and hopefully they’ll fill the right pieces in the draft coming up.

“The problem with the NFL nowadays is, whether it’s ownership, fans or players, everybody lacks patience. It takes time to grow programs and organizations and it happens over a long period of time. You don’t talk about dynasties because they’re good for a year or two. It takes time to build those things, so give them time. … At some point you’ve got to commit to somebody and be able to sit back and relax and wait.”

Taylor also had to learn how to be patient with his transition from football player to analyst and he admits that whenever he sees a quarterback with the ball in his hands he still feels the desire to put on the pads and chase him down. That’s part of the itch that Taylor says will never go away.

However, he did concede that while he keeps himself in good shape and probably could last three hours on the field, it would take him a lot longer to recover now than it did last year. Being on the ESPN set and preparing for a broadcast is what keeps him motivated today.

“It’s been fun and I enjoy it,” Taylor said. “It’s not playing and obviously I’d rather play but I’m having a good time with it. I get a chance to be around some of the ex-players and we talk about the game, share stories and talk a lot of trash and you get to stay involved somewhat. Seeing the game from a bird-eye view a little bit and understanding what’s going on and what teams are trying to do, it’s interesting to sit back and watch what some people say is happening as opposed to what may really be happening. It’s fun, though, and I’m really enjoying it.”
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