The Dolphins hope defensive end Cameron Wake, 34 and coming off a ruptured Achilles’ tendon, will still be one of the NFL’s premier pass rushers. But he will no longer be a starter.
Jason Jones, who started all 31 games in which he appeared for the Detroit Lions the past two seasons, will replace Wake as the starter in base defense and play a large chunk of first and second downs, defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said Tuesday.
Wake has started the past 54 regular-season games he has played for Miami.
“In our first- and second-down package, which is obviously more run and mixed play-action pass, Jason Jones will be the starting end along with Mario Williams,” Joseph said. “Cam will be used some on first and second down but mostly in pass-rush situations.”
When the Dolphins were pursuing free agent defensive linemen in free agency, they conveyed that they envisioned Wake transitioning into a pass-rush specialist role. But for the first time, the Dolphins said that publicly Tuesday.
“I think if we chose to, he could be a starter on every down,” Joseph said. “But I think, just keeping him healthy and allowing him to be a dominant pass rusher — taking some downs off of him — makes us better and allows him to be fresher for 16 weeks. … So Cameron, not playing a lot of first- and second-down reps, when the game is on the line, he can finish it for us.”
The Dolphins believe Jones, 30, will be stout against the run. Miami was 28th in run defense last season.
“From OTAs to the first part of [training] camp until now, I feel very comfortable with the run defense,” Joseph said. “I wasn’t during the spring and I wasn’t early on in camp, but I feel better about it now because now they’re focusing on both.”
Center Mike Pouncey (hip), linebacker Jelani Jenkins (knee) and receiver DeVante Parker (hamstring) missed the portion of practice open to the media, decreasing the chances of them playing Sunday. Coach Adam Gase said he would like players, in general, to practice one day in order for them to play.
Miami will practice Wednesday, fly to Seattle on Thursday, and practice on Friday.
Joseph said if Jenkins doesn’t play, Spencer Paysinger would be the starter in base defense and Koa Misi would stay in the game “in our sub-nickel package.”
Anthony Steen would replace Pouncey at center. Gase said “Steen has been great” with the line calls.
▪ Dolphins executive vice president Dawn Aponte is leaving the organization and transitioning to a top role at RSE Ventures, a sports and entertainment venture cofounded by Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and club vice chairman Matt Higgins.
“This is something [executive vice president] Mike [Tannenbaum], Matt and I have been talking about for more than several months,” said Aponte, who joined the Dolphins in February 2010. “It started out as a conversation with sort of what’s the next step in my progression and my career, where my interests are. … I’ve had an amazing experience in the NFL with all the different things I’ve been able to do.”
Her focus will be on business development.
The Dolphins promoted senior director for human resources Brandon Shore into Aponte’s former role as chief contract negotiator. He joined the Dolphins as an intern under Aponte six years ago.
Miami Herald sportswriter Armando Salguero contributed to this report.