Wake Is A Mentor To The Next Generation Of Pass Rushers

Posted Aug 12, 2013

Pro Bowler is a valuable asset for the Dolphins’ young defensive ends.

Cameron Wake came to the Dolphins in 2009 as a pass-rushing specialist but has developed into an all-around force at defensive end.

He not only can rush the passer, he’s become very good against the run and he also can make plays in pass coverage when called upon.

And there’s still another way Wake has and continues to contribute to the success of the Dolphins _ as a mentor to the young defensive ends on the roster.

“Cameron is outstanding because, one, he’s a guy that doesn’t say a lot all the time and when he says something they really listen,” defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers said. “But they can just watch him by example. This guy comes to work every day; this is a blue-collar worker. This is not a prima donna player you’re talking about. He’s a self-made man, too, and he only got to where he is because of work. So they watch his work ethic, they’ve got a chance to be OK.”

At 31 years old and with four years of NFL experience on his resume, Wake is practically ancient when compared to his defensive end teammates. Along with Wake, the defensive ends on the roster are second-year players Olivier Vernon and Derrick Shelby, and rookies Dion Jordan, Tristan Okpalaugo and Emeka Onyenekwu.

It’s quite the contrast from when Wake first joined the Dolphins as a 27-year-old in 2009 as a 3-4 outside linebacker and his position cohorts included veterans like Jason Taylor and Joey Porter.

With two Pro Bowl selections and 43 sacks in his first four seasons, which ranks fourth in the league during that span, Wake has developed into one of the best defensive ends in the NFL despite being undersized at 6-3, 250 pounds.

He has compensated with a tremendous work ethic and good technical work, making him an ideal teacher for his younger teammates. And Wake has been more than happy to help, even if he can’t help but smile when he thinks of himself as a mentor.

“Already, huh? We’re passing the torch?” Wake said. “You know what? It’s something that I knew was coming. It had already started previously when O.V. came in and we had three rookies in the D-line room and being a veteran, it’s crazy how quick it happens.

“This is my fifth year, but I’m like the third-longest tenured Dolphins on the team and it sounds crazy, but it’s the truth. Being a guy who’s the young vet I’ll say going out there and doing whatever I can to help these young make strides to help this defense, I’m definitely down for it.”

No doubt, Wake’s help is appreciated by his teammates.

“I try to pick his brain all the time,” Vernon said. “Even when I’m not even around him, (I’m) just looking at what he does. I try to pick his brain and see what he does to help myself get better. In practice and watching film, just pinpointing little things that he does and helps him get better leverage on offensive linemen, I try to mimic.”

After Shelby recorded two sacks in the preseason opener against the Dallas Cowboys in the Hall of Fame Game, Wake couldn’t help but crack a joke when asked about the young defensive end from the University of Utah. “I taught him everything he knows,” Wake said laughing.

Clearly, the Dolphins’ young defensive ends all have plenty of ability on their own, otherwise they would not have reached the NFL level.

It just doesn’t hurt to be able to watch up close and learn from one of the best at what he does.

“He always helps, especially when I feel like a guy is giving me a particular set,” Shelby said. “I always go pick his brain to see what move he would do and then I go try and implement it in my game.”

Vernon says the biggest thing he’s learned from Wake is the importance of timing the snap count to get the jump on the opposing offensive lineman. On the day he signed his rookie contract, Jordan said Wake had taught him the value of taking care of his body and how that translates onto the field.

Whatever it may be, Rodgers said having Wake around is a valuable asset for the young defensive ends.

“They gravitate to him,” Rodgers said. “They see how he’s doing it. He’s not the biggest cat in the world, either, but he’s able to use leverage, his strength. He works against big guys all the time and they watch him and are just amazed at the stuff he’s doing and his professionalism.

“Every day it’s something, whether they’re working their hands, this and that, they’re taking a pass-rushing rep and they go to him, ‘What did I do wrong here?’ It’s just like having another coach on the field sometimes.”