GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Call it a breakout performance. Say it was long overdue. Predict this is a sign of what’s to come.
Regardless of the classification, Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake’s effort through the first three weeks of the season hasn’t been a disappointment. But the pressure he pestered the Arizona Cardinals’ offense with on Sunday, headlined by 4 1/2 sacks, was the expectation for Wake this season — especially on the heels of a four-year contract extension.
After the Cardinals rallied for a 24-21 overtime win at the University of Phoenix Stadium, Wake’s impact and the team’s season-high eight sacks seemed to lose its luster, but it was, undoubtedly, a factor in helping the Dolphins lead for much of the game.
“That’s what we do,” Wake said. “We’ve always been a group that gets after it every day. Sundays or game time is when we have to step up and make plays. To me that’s not anything new. Getting pressure on the quarterback is something we’ve always done. Stopping the run is something we always do, but today we had to do something extra.”
Without question, Wake did his part. His 4 1/2 sacks set a single-game career high for the 30-year-old and he now has 32 1/2 in his career, surpassing Jason Taylor and tying Trace Armstrong for the franchise lead for players through their first four seasons with the Dolphins.
“That guy’s been giving us exceptional effort every single snap,” coach Joe Philbin said.
Three sacks came in the first half when Wake dominated Cardinals tackle Bobby Massie, who has been a solid presence on the Cardinals offensive line so far this season as a rookie.
Wake pushed quarterback Kevin Kolb back for a combined 23 yards in the first half, and that helped limit the Cardinals to 68 offensive yards. Meanwhile, the Dolphins had 250 yards, led in time of possession and jumped out to a 13-0 lead at halftime.
“If you watch what I do, it doesn’t change much,” Wake said. “I feel like I go out there every game and do my best to affect the quarterback if that’s my role.”
Before the game, Wake had yet to record a sack this season, which was unusual since the contribution has become a hallmark of his game. It’s what helped him get back in the league after he spent two seasons in the Canadian Football League. There, Wake had 39 in two seasons.
He’s yet to match the 14 sacks he amassed in 2010 when he was rewarded with a Pro Bowl appearance, but with a few more multi-sack games, he could reach that mark.
“You could trade every sack I’ll get for the rest of the week, this week, next week and the week after that if we get a W,” Wake said. “I don’t care about that. I don’t even know how many I had. I don’t care about sacks. I care about wins. We didn’t win, so obviously it wasn’t enough.”
Even so, a combination of personal bests can be surefire ingredients for a win. Aside from Wake’s career day, wide receiver Brian Hartline set a franchise record for 253 receiving yards in a single game.
Add in an additional 178 throwing yards from quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and the Dolphins were poised to reach .500.
Against the Cardinals it wasn’t enough, but it may be another time.
“At the end of the day it’s not enough pressure, not enough coverage,” Wake said. “Somebody has to do that extra thing whatever it is. It’s just disappointing. A lot of guys went out there and left it out on the field. Not taking a W back to Miami is tough.”