The exhilarating high from the two-week joyride atop the Dan Campbell bandwagon has dissipated now, pushed aside by the sobering reality check delivered by the New England Patriots on Thursday night and Friday’s expected but dispiriting news that defensive end Cameron Wake will miss the remainder of the season with a torn Achilles tendon.
Tests on Friday confirmed the bad news about Wake, a four-time Pro Bowl selection and a pass-rushing menace during his seven-year NFL career. He sustained the injury on a pass rush late in the third quarter of Miami’s 36-7 loss at New England.
“It’s a big loss, real big,” said Campbell, the team’s interim coach. “He’s going to be missed. Cam is a very, very productive player for us, one of our captains, one of our team leaders. Guys look up to him. It’s going to hurt.”
Wake’s long-term future with the team also is in question, considering the seriousness of the injury and his age (33). Rehabilitation timetables can vary with that injury.
As a member of the Atlanta Falcons, Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes sustained a torn Achilles in the first game of the 2012 season, but the Dolphins signed him the following offseason and he was ready for the 2013 preseason opener.
Wake has a non-guaranteed base salary of $8.27 million next season and would have a $9.8 million cap number if he’s on the team. If the Dolphins release him, his cap number would be $1.4 million.
Without Wake, the Dolphins are expected to start Derrick Shelby at left defensive end, opposite starting right defensive end Olivier Vernon.
Shelby had been playing slightly more than Wake before Wake’s injury, and the Dolphins have been very pleased with his work against the run.
“We are fortunate to have a guy like Shelby who can step into that role and help us, among others,” Campbell said. “All those guys will pick up the slack for Cam. We still got guys who can rush the passer —[Ndamukong] Suh and OV and Shelby. Chris McCain can possibly fill some of that role. And Earl Mitchell. We’ve got enough guys.”
Shelby, an impending unrestricted free agent, has 5.5 sacks in 3 ½ seasons, though none this season. Pro Football Focus rates Wake and Shelby tied for 19th in productivity among 97 defensive ends this season. Vernon is ranked 42nd.
“I have to keep doing what I’m doing — probably have to do it for more plays now,” Shelby said.
The Dolphins will need more from Vernon, another impending unrestricted free agent. Vernon had 11.5 sacks in 2013 but slipped to 6.5 last season and has two this year. His tackles (13) also are way down, from 57 in 2013 and 46 last season.
Terrence Fede and McCain are expected to be the backup defensive ends. Fede, a seventh-round pick out of Marist in 2014, has one sack and 24 tackles in 18 career games over two seasons and has played 165 defensive snaps this season, according to Pro Football Focus.
McCain has been inactive in four of Miami’s seven games, including Thursday.
Wake battled a hamstring injury early in the season and had no sacks in Miami’s first four games. But he had seven sacks over the past three.
His 70 career sacks rank second all-time in Dolphins history, behind Jason Taylor, who had 131 sacks in 13 seasons as a Dolphin. Wake has the third-most sacks in the NFL since 2009, behind DeMarcus Ware and Jared Allen.
“He’s disappointed but he’s holding his head high,” Campbell said.
JAMES OUT SEVERAL WEEKS
Right tackle Ja’Wuan James is expected to miss several weeks with a toe injury. Campbell said an exact timetable hasn’t been determined but it could be four to six weeks.
“We know it’s not good, but don’t quite know how bad it is yet,” said Campbell, who didn’t rule out surgery. “That would be a big loss for us. Ja’Wuan has been playing good football. Jason Fox will step in and will do a nice job.”
▪ Campbell said receiver DeVante Parker, who left Thursday’s game with a foot injury, “is fine. It doesn’t look like there’s anything that’s wrong there.”
▪ Campbell said Thursday’s result “was lack of production; I don’t see it as lack of emotion or lack of intensity. When you’re playing big games, your impact players really have to show up for you. We didn’t get enough plays out of those guys.” But he said he believes the Dolphins are “far better than what was put on tape.”