True Story: In January of 2009 the Miami Dolphins decided as an organization that after having Cameron Wake on their CFL tracking list for some time, they would like to move on the pass-rush specialist. The club was well beyond the film studying and workout portion of its due diligence so it was time to get about the business of trying to sign Wake.
And so Jeff Ireland got to work negotiating with Wake's agent. During one session, Wake's agent got call-waiting and excused himself from Ireland. When he returned to the conversation and negotiation, he told Ireland that it had been another team calling.
Ireland immediately thought he was being toyed with. He thought the agent was telling him it was another team and that team was also jumping into the negotiations. (It is a typical agent ploy to increase the price for his client by saying there are other bidders.)
So Ireland assumed the worst.
Except the agent was actually up-front with Miami's general manager. He explained to Ireland the team on the phone was asking for tape of Wake so it could begin studying him.
Obviously they were too late to the festivities and Wake eventually signed with the Dolphins, picking Miami over about six other teams, among other teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"We studied and pursued him when he came out of the Canada," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said this week. "We do that on a yearly basis. We identified him and Stefan Logan, a returner that we had last year. They came out of the CFL together at the same time. We were able to acquire Logan, who did good business for us, but we weren't able to get in the mix on Cameron. We've been pretty aware of him even before him getting down there."
Now, the Steelers are keenly aware of Wake seeing as that he is a pass-rush threat and will be chasing Ben Roethlisberger this weekend.
Tomlin is pretty much an expert on great linebacker play. The Steelers have James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, both of whom are Pro Bowl players. And Tomlin says Wake is "having a Pro Bowl-caliber year."
I must concur. Wake is tied for fourth in the NFL with six sacks so far this season. He has more than Harrison (5) and is close to lapping Woodley (3.5). He leads the Dolphins. And he's coming off a three-sack outburst against Green Bay last week.
But the assignment for Wake gets more difficult, not less this week.
Last week, Wake did his work against rookie tackle Bryan Bulaga. This Sunday, the Steelers have veterans Max Starks and Flozell Adams at the tackle spots.
"Two quality, quality players," coach Tony Sparano said, describing Pittsburgh's tackles. "They're two veterans who understand how to play the game."
The Dolphins admit Wake is still a work in progress on how to play the game -- particularly as it relates to making him a three-down player. We all know he can rush the passer. That is obvious. But how's he doing on the other downs?
"It's getting much better, it really is," Sparano said. "Each week he does something different in the run game, he sets the edge better in the run game, gets off blocks better in the run game. There's another step taken. Now I think this is going to be the biggest challenge and I'm not just saying that because it's the next game."
Sparano is saying it because the Dolphins defense still hasn't proven it can contain the run on the edges all the time. They believe excellent running teams, like the Steelers, will see the film and believe they can exploit the edges of the defense with their running game.
"That part of it, he's got to step up to, there's no way around it," Sparano said. "We've got set the edges of the defense. That's a big part of the progression with him, which he is getting better at. He's done a solid job in ballgames here as of late."
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