Miami Dolphins

With Dolphins’ new defensive line rotation, Miami’s stars cannot get lost in the wash

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Miami Dolphins Cameron Wake speaks about sacrifice, beer and freedom
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Miami Dolphins Cameron Wake speaks about sacrifice, beer and freedom

A year after Hurricane Irene chased the Dolphins out of town and ruined their season opener, Mother Nature looks to be far more cooperative.

The Dolphins open at home against the Titans Sunday at 1 p.m., and it’s going to be hot. The forecast is 88 degrees, sunny and humid.

Just how the coaching staff wants it. The Dolphins have been practicing in these conditions since April. The Titans have not.

And they have a plan: Rotate their defensive linemen in waves, to keep them fresh.

They have already seen that approach work, albeit in the preseason. The Dolphins held the Ravens out of the end zone at the end of a 16-play, eight-minute drive in Week 3. And the team thinks its because the defensive line was able to stay fresh.

“Hopefully that’s not the case a lot, but when we do get into longer drives that there’s fresher bodies, so when a critical situation comes in, those guys haven’t been playing for 20 snaps in a row,” Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke said Thursday.

But one danger of using nine defensive linemen in a two plays on, two plays off rotation is it could leave Miami’s best players on the sideline at a game’s most important time.

Cameron Wake and Robert Quinn are the stars of the group, and the Dolphins understand that they need to be on the field in the most critical moments. The plan was to use Wake as a situational pass-rusher in 2016, but the Dolphins scrapped that plan quickly after Wake’s usage plummeted to fewer than 20 snaps in a game.

So it will be up to defensive line coach Kris Kocurek to manage playing time in a way that prevents that from happening again.

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“It’s hard. It’s not easy to manage a game like that from [Kocurek’s] perspective, in terms of rotating that group in,” Burke said. “I leave that to him. ‘Hey, I’m not calling certain groups out there.’ He’s got to get a feel for the game situation and how he handles his group. He does a really good job with that. That will be our plan, to keep those guys as fresh as we can. Hope it’s hot out there this weekend.”

Burke added: “The way we ask them play, in terms of chasing the ball and exploding and running and those things and playing with a relentless approach, you can’t ask a guy to do that for 75 snaps a game, no matter how hot he is or how good he is.”

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