Let's be honest, the stars of the 3-4 defense are usually the outside linebackers and more specifically, the weakside outside linebacker.
Yes, the defense needs great play at cornerback, nose tackle and safety but if the pass-rush is not getting to the quarterback, it is simply going to be a long day for any 3-4 defense. The weakside backer has to be the player collecting the sacks, ending drives, causing fumbles on strip-sacks, sometimes recovering those fumbles, maybe even running for touchdowns off those.
The guy has to be a game-changer.
Think Lawrence Taylor years ago, and more recently Elvis Dumervil, DeMarcus Ware, and for one year at least in 2008, Joey Porter.
As the Dolphins play a 3-4 defense, the men slotted to play outside linebacker must produce in 2010 for the defense to get off the field. And no spotlight is brighter than one currently on Cameron Wake.
Wake seemingly must have a big year in 2010 for the Miami defense to climb from its No. 22 overall rank of a year ago. He must have a monster year if the unit is to be feared.
Well, he was the up-and-coming pass-rusher that seemed to give the Dolphins the confidence to cut Porter and not re-sign Jason Taylor. After collecting an outstanding 39 sacks in two CFL seasons in 2007 and 2008, Wake had 5 1/2 sacks for Miami in 2009 -- his first year in the NFL.
The NFL numbers came with limited snaps so everyone figures more snaps as a starter this year would translate to more more production. The problem -- admittedly temporary at the moment because it is still only May -- is that Wake isn't currently a first-teamer on the Miami defense.
To the surprise of some, Wake was second-team during the recent OTA session witnessed by the media and it has apparently been that way all offseason. Charlie Anderson and Quentin Moses were the first-team outside backers at that last OTA day. Both Anderson and Moses switched off working strong and weak sides.
Was Wake disappointed he's not running with the starters?
"The coach said right before we went on the field, 'It's a starting point. It's not the finish line,' " he said. "So guys are out there playing and I'm going out there to show what I can do."
But make no mistake, Wake doesn't see himself in the same situational pass-rusher role he filled last year. It is important for him to win a starting job.
"I would say so," he said. "I'm always hungry for more. Everybody wants to do that. But I'm always hungry for more. That's what got me in the situation I am now. It's about not being satisfied. I wasn't satisfied with Canada. I wasn't satisfied where I was last year. I'm not satisfied where I am here. Every day I want more."
To want more, Wake has to show more on run-downs because last year coaches weren't comfortable enough with his run-defense to put him in there on those downs. That, in part, is what Wake has been working on during team OTA periods and should continue working on during the club's minicamp that begins Friday.
"Like I said last year, I'm trying to be a good all-around football player," Wake said. "Obviously I'm working on my pass rush, but there are other things also. We have a new scheme, new coordinator, new coach, so I've been picking their brains."
Wake says he's also been working on his body.
"Bigger, faster, stronger," he said. "That's always the goal. And I've been here all offseason. I didn't go anywhere. I'm working on power and explosion, putting on good body weight and finding out where they want me to be."
One assumes coaches want him to be in a starting job by the time the regular-season rolls around. But for now, Wake has more work to do if he aims to become the playmaker on Miami's 3-4 defense.