Miami Dolphins

While Andre Branch is hurt, 36-year-old Cameron Wake must not act his age

Cameron Wake is looking for the first 4-0 start of his 10-year career.
Cameron Wake is looking for the first 4-0 start of his 10-year career.

The plan this season was to protect 36-year-old Cameron Wake from too much wear and tear.

To rotate players evenly, so Wake would be on the field for 35 snaps per game, and not 65.

Because injuries, like the minor knee issue that cropped up for Wake this week, happen, particularly after a certain age.

It was a smart plan.

And it might have lasted all of three games.

When Dolphins defensive ends William Hayes and Andre Branch got hurt in Week 3, the calculus changed.

It left the Dolphins just three healthy defensive ends: Wake, Robert Quinn and Charles Harris.

And yes, the team has since added Jonathan Woodard from the practice squad, but he is not on that level. Woodard will surely play some against the Patriots on Sunday, but reading between the lines of what Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke said Thursday, the burden will primarily fall on Miami’s best players while Branch is out.

That means Wake will almost certainly see his snaps go up from what he has received so far (about half of Miami’s defensive plays).

Any concern about that?

“Nope,” Burke replied Thursday.

“The rotation changes week to week,” Burke explained. “There’s certain times you like better matchups or guys you want to play more or less.”

So this would have probably been a “more” week for Wake even without the injuries.

Burke explained:

“This is obviously a week where you have to be careful substituting anyways with this offense. They’re going to try to catch you with too many guys on the field and some of those things they like to do. Even if we had the same number of people we had last week going into the game, we would have to change our substitution strategy this week because they make it difficult to do some things like that.”

Burke has said consistently said that Wake does not look his age and that until he does, he will play as much as is needed.

But there were worries among Dolphins coaches about overusing Wake two years ago. And Father Time is undefeated.

So a heavy workload now might translate into diminishing returns later.

But if that is a concern this week, Burke would not admit to it out loud.

“We train all of our guys to play,” he said. “That’s an ideal world, sort of the way we can do it, if we can get quick subs and to roll in groups; but if they get stuck out there, they’re going to have to play ball for us.

“Sometimes, like this week, it’s just a matter of we may not have a chance to do that,” he continued. “You can’t sub unless they sub, so we’ve got to be on top of that anyway. Guys may have to be in there for some extended drives and we’ll just try to get the best matchups for us when we can.”

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