WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
Cameron Wake was sipping on some blended concoction of broccoli, kale and spinach the other day --- it looked a little like algae and it’s questionable if it tasted much better --- and it served as a reminder of how the four-time Pro Bowl defensive end treats his body like a temple, perhaps more so than any recent Dolphin.
Wake says he hasn’t tasted candy or ice cream since leaving Penn State after 2004. And fried foods? Out of the question.
At 33, Wake enters a pivotal season, his seventh in Miami and one that will determine whether the cap-strapped Dolphins will have the leverage to ask him to take a pay cut for 2016, when he has an $8.2 million salary (it’s $8.9 million this season) and a $9.8 million cap number.
Adding intrigue is this: Can Wake achieve a career-type season playing alongside Ndamukong Suh, whose presence (and commanding of double-teams) historically boosts the production of defensive ends?
To appreciate how important it is for Wake to be at his best, consider:
He had eight sacks last season in the Dolphins’ eight wins, just 3.5 in their eight losses. He had two sacks in Miami’s only December win against Minnesota but no sacks and just four combined tackles in the December losses to the Ravens, Patriots and Jets.
Wake watched every one of his 2014 snaps on tape this offseason and said his blood boiled when he reviewed those three late-season losses.
“I look at that sometimes and say, ‘I could have made that play. I could have changed that game.’ Every year, my blood pressure goes up [when I watch tape]; I've got to go get some medicine.”
After producing 15 sacks and 53 tackles in 2012, Wake’s numbers have been good but not extraordinary the past two: 8.5 sacks and 37 tackles in 2013, 11.5 and 38 in 2014.
“Obviously, I want to be better than I was,” he said.
Wake and Suh have lined up next to each other during the majority of offseason practices, and the question now is whether Suh’s presence can again catapult Wake toward the top five in the league in sacks. (He was fourth in 2012 but 29th in 2013 and 11th last season.)
What impact does Suh have on defensive ends? Consider the five seasons in which Cliff Avril started at least half his team’s games.
When he played with Suh in Detroit, Avril had 8.5 sacks (in 13 games), 11.0 and 9.5. In his two other seasons as a full-time starter, Avril had 5.5 sacks (for Detroit without Suh in 2009) and 5.0 for Seattle last season.
Wake expects Suh’s presence to benefit both him and Olivier Vernon, whose sacks dropped from 11.5 to 6.5 last season.
“I'm looking forward to watching offenses and trying to figure out how to make that happen,” Wake said. “The relationship [with Suh] is coming along great. We've spent time with each other in meeting rooms. It's been accelerated. We've already built a relationship that will help us out.”
Said defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle: “I see a chemistry already developing between those two that will be real exciting to watch as the season unfolds next year. They will help each other in a lot of ways.”
Wake, who hasn’t made the playoffs in his six seasons in Miami, plans to travel in the coming weeks “to another hemisphere, maybe Indonesia or someplace distant.”
He said he doesn’t feel his mortality because “I take care of myself the best way I know how. [But] it’s like two worlds. One world I'm a young pup. The other world I'm a senior citizen.” Perhaps Suh’s arrival will push Wake back into his prime.
### The Dolphins are interested in free agent guard Evan Mathis, according to someone with direct knowledge, but whether they end up with him will depend on how high bidding rises.
The Dolphins have a bit under $9 million in cap space and want to save several million heading into the season.
During Tuesday’s minicamp, it was notable that veteran Jeff Linkenbach took many of the first-team right guard snaps ahead of Billy Turner, while Dallas Thomas and Jamil Douglas shared first-team snaps at left guard. Mathis would become the left guard if he signs.
“I like the guys we have,” coach Joe Philbin insisted today. “There's no question in my mind they will be capable of doing the job.”
### Some nuggets from the first of two Dolphins' mini-camp practices: Chris McCain remained the starting strongside linebacker and Jamar Taylor the starting cornerback opposite Brent Grimes... Safety Walt Aikens continued his good work with an interception and two pass breakups...
Josh Freeman threw an early interception to Aikens, then rebounded with several excellent throws..... Louis Delmas, who tore his ACL last November, participated in 11 on 11 drills and said he is fully cleared.... Tommy Streeter, signed last week, caught a 50-yard pass on Zack Bowman, from McLeod Bethel-Thompson. But MDT also threw an interception to Reshad Jones....
Kenny Stills sat out for precautionary reasons with an injury that was described as not serious.... With Caleb Sturgis still sidelined after his kickball injury, Andrew Franks made 3 of 4 field goals. He missed his longest field goal of the day, from 46 yards, and it wasn't especially close (wide left)....
Sun Life Stadium seats signed by Don Shula, Dan Marino and Bob Griese will be auctioned on miamidolphins.com beginning at noon Wednesday. They'll be thrown away if not purchased during the auction.... Check out Adam Beasley's story on the home page about Suh and newcomer C.J. Mosley.
### Expect sharp-shooting sixth man Lou Williams to reach out to the Heat, among select other teams, when NBA free agency starts on July 1.
Williams (who ranked 15th in the league this season with 152 three-pointers) might be affordable only if two among Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade or Luol Deng leaves. Otherwise, the Heat would have only exception money ($5.5 million or $3.4 million, depending on whether it incurs a luxury tax).
### As associate of veteran power forward Carlos Boozer said Boozer wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up with the Heat next season (almost assuredly at the minimum).
Boozer, who spends a lot of time in Miami, can still play as a backup (11.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 49.9 percent from the field for the Lakers), but signing him makes sense only if Josh McRoberts or (less likely) Udonis Haslem is dealt.
### Dwyane Wade, on ABC's pre-game show, credited receiver Brandon Marshall for suggesting he take the four-day business class at Harvard that he completed last week.... Some on Twitter are reading a lot into Wade beginning an anecdote tonight by saying, "When I was in Miami, we had this saying..."
Wade might leave the Heat because of major contractual differences (or he might not), but I would be surprised if there was intent in that comment tonight. Just my opinion, since nobody is a mind-reader.
### A few weeks after ESPN’s Buster Olney advocated that the Marlins hire Yankees slugger/Miami native Alex Rodriguez as manager next season, A-Rod went out of his way this week to praise the Marlins owner (“Jeffrey Loria has done a great job with this franchise”) and their “great young talent.”
There are no negative feelings between Loria and A-Rod, but a source close to Loria dismissed the idea of Loria hiring him right off the field as a manager. A decision on whether Dan Jennings will manage in 2016 will be made based on how the season unfolds.
Having Jennings as the manager --- unsettling to some players initially because of lack of on-field experience --- is “getting more and more normal,” reliever Mike Dunn said. “Dan’s a great motivational speaker.”
### Tampa area tight end Tre' McKitty, not rated by rivals.com, today became UM's eight non-binding oral commitment for 2017. UM has 24 such commitments for 2016 and five for 2018. Those 37 commitments are the most in the country.