The Awakening: Breaking Down Cameron Wake’s Week Six MVP Performance
Compete. Dominate. Grow every week.
Dan Campbell’s words were clear when he took over as the Dolphins’ head coach. We knew that he had the attitude that Miami needed to find success, but we were unsure as to which players might latch onto this message and improve their performance. On Sunday we learned of one player who clearly took Coach Campbell’s words to heart.
Cameron Wake is 33 years old. Heading into this season, many overlooked his age and felt that he would be a force to be reckoned with on this team’s defensive line. One month into the season it seemed that Wake could be over the hill. He appeared sluggish, and injuries built up to contribute to an ineffective four weeks for the star pass rusher.
Many questioned his age, health, and conditioning, as some reports arose during the offseason indicating that Wake added weight purposefully to improve in the run game. Not much was made of these reports at the time of their release, but as his struggles became more evident many felt his lack of explosiveness could be blamed on a change in physique.
Last season, Wake posted 11.5 sacks, playing in 16 games. However, many noticed that he was dealing with nagging knee injuries throughout the season. This year it appeared that those injuries had returned, and that Wake could be ready to slow down.
Against Tennessee, Wake gave us plenty of reason to throw out the early portion of 2015.
Cameron Wake willed our team’s defense into success against the Titans. He fought harder than anyone on the field, and clearly took it upon himself to make every single play for sixty minutes. When an elite athlete combines physical tools with immense determination, very special things can happen. Against the Tennessee Titans, we saw one of those very special moments: complete domination by a single player.
If you had to guess Wake’s age based on this performance, you would not say 33. You also would not say that he was a CFL player who went undrafted, was cut by the Giants, and did not play in an NFL regular season game until he was 27. You might have guessed that he was a 25-year old ex-first round pick, and a top defensive player in the NFL.
You would be right that he is a top defensive player in the NFL, but somehow it seems that he never gets the respect that usually comes to players of his magnitude. This could be due to the late start to his career, or the underachieving nature of the defenses he has been a part of. If you were to ask Cameron Wake if he would change anything about his past, he would say that he wouldn’t dream of it. Wake is proud of his Canadian Football League pedigree, and believes that it shaped him into the player he is today. Being cut by the Giants following going undrafted, and then crossing the border to the CFL allowed Wake to stay humble, even after experiencing the amount of success he has in the NFL.
Cameron Wake gave every ounce of energy he could against the Titans. He played through the whistle, tried to singlehandedly make every play, and attacked the football with purpose. Wake’s efforts culminated in a four sack, two forced fumble performance. He was largely responsible for the lack of offense Tennessee established in this game.
A main cause of the Dolphins’ dominance against Tennessee was the presence of Ndamukong Suh, as Wake was faced with single blocking for most of the game. Up to this point, Wake had been the most dangerous piece on the Dolphins’ defense, and had always drawn the double blocking. For the first time in his career, he was largely facing one-on-one assignments. As one might expect, it didn’t hurt his production.
It was clear on Sunday that there was a change in defensive scheme that allowed the players to do their jobs in a more straightforward manner. Everything seemed to come together as it should have in Week One, and this was exemplified in Cameron Wake’s performance. The players kept a tight lid on the exact changes that were made, but it is clear that Lou Anarumo made alterations to the defense.
The motivation of new head coach Dan Campbell is likely what stirred the fire in Wake, as many expected to see him perform since Week One. If someone watched this game with no prior knowledge of the team, they would have assumed that Wake was leading the NFL in sacks. Even after Wake’s hibernation for the first four games of the season, he will be ranked 10th in the league for most sacks following this week.
Yes, they all came in one game.
Cameron Wake recorded sacks, terrorized running backs, and put pressure on rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota all day. He generated opportunities for other players by flushing Mariota out of the pocket, and allowed the defense to swarm aggressively and collapse the quarterback’s pocket. When Cameron Wake got to the quarterback, he was able to dislodge the football twice, forcing crucial turnovers. He also drew holding calls on multiple occasions throughout the game, which can kill an offense’s momentum and rhythm.
No, the MVP of the game was not Ryan Tannehill, Jarvis Landry, or Ndamukong Suh. It was Cameron Wake, a player we often take for granted in Miami. Wake has been an outstanding presence for this team since his arrival, and once again showed what makes him one of the most dynamic defenders in the league. He forced turnovers, generated pressure, and set the tone for the other ten men on defense to do their jobs.
At the end of the game on Sunday, we knew we had witnesses something special. Before leaving the field, Wake marked the end of his remarkable day with another performance of his signature sack celebration. He earned the right to perform an encore for the Titans, and to make sure they knew what they had just experienced on their home turf.
Ladies and gentlemen, your MVP from Week Six: Cameron Wake.