Barry Jackson

Dolphins refining defensive roles; UM adds another quality recruit

Miami Dolphins Cameron Wake sacks Buffalo Bills Tyrod Taylor in the first quarter at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on Sun., Oct. 23, 2016.
Miami Dolphins Cameron Wake sacks Buffalo Bills Tyrod Taylor in the first quarter at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on Sun., Oct. 23, 2016. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

Some Dolphins and UM nuggets on a Friday:

• The way the Dolphins are using defensive ends Cam Wake and Mario Williams has changed during this two-game winning streak, and the team offered clarity on that this week:

With Wake, even though he’s starting, “his play count won’t go beyond probably 40 snaps a game,” defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said. “I think Cam and Andre (Branch) has given us great energy as starters, and it’s allowed Mario (Williams) to play less snaps and to play harder. It’s allowed Jason Jones to play less snaps and to play harder.

“I think the flip of those two guys has given us more energy, but the play counts should not be out of whack. Even though Cam’s a starter, he shouldn’t play 60 snaps a game. He can still play his 35 snaps, but from a starting role. I don’t see it any different from him being a starter or a pass rush specialist. He’s still playing about 30 snaps a game, which we kind of targeted early on.”

So will the Dolphins try to shade Wake’s snaps toward pass rush opportunities?

“No, he’s just going to play,” Joseph said. “He’s going to play. He wants to be out there first, second and third down. He’s just going to play. It’s a new NFL. It’s always pass. Cam’s playing well in the run and pass game alike, so he wants to be out there. It helps our defense when Cam’s out there more often.”

With Williams, as Armando explained on his blog (check that out), the Dolphins believe he’s more effective playing fewer snaps.

But they also have become comfortable with Williams playing some defensive tackle, as well.

“He’s a defensive end,” Joseph said. “That was a move (inside) we made in the fourth quarter [against Buffalo] to get our four best guys on the field. If he’s playing inside for 10 rushes, that’s fine for Mario. He can handle that. He’s a big enough man to handle that. That was not the plan going into the game, but if it happens, it happens. He can go inside and rush. It’s just rushing right? So, he can go rush inside.”

• Linebackers Jelani Jenkins, Donald Butler and improved Neville Hewitt all played similar snap counts against Buffalo, but Joseph said the plan will change a bit:

“With Jelani being out from time to time, he’s stepped up in the base package and played well for us,” Joseph said. “Jelani’s back now so he may not play as much, but he’s a guy that we can count on, on base downs to play at a high level for us. That’s been good to see.”

• Special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi, on kicker Andrew Franks, who’s 9 for 12 on field goals and 15 for 15 on extra points:

“I was actually just looking at the stats earlier this morning – there are only three guys in the league that have made every kick so far between PATs and field goal: (Ravens K) Justin Tucker, (Colts K) Adam Vinatieri, and (Rams K) Greg Zuerlein. Twenty out of 32 teams have missed PATs.

“So, my point is it’s not just the field goals to me anymore. You see all these PATs and all these kicks getting missed every week. To me at least – as his coach and a special teams coach – I’m clumping all those kicks together – all the field goals, all the PATs – and alright, we got [27] opportunities. If I’m not mistaken, he has made [24 of 27]. That’s how I’m looking at it. Now, if it was the old rule, totally different. You know how they separate it. Obviously, you’re going to separate it statistically. So really in my mind, he has had [27] opportunities not just 12, because some of those field goals have been shorter than even PATs.”

UM RECRUITING

UM, which clearly needs more talent at most positions to return to elite level, can feel good about linebacker, with three promising freshmen starters. And the Hurricanes improved their depth at that position on Thursday night by snagging an oral commitment from Carol City Class of 2017 prospect De’Andre Wilder.

Wilder chose UM over Auburn and Michigan State. He had more than 30 offers, including from UF, Alabama, LSU and Michigan.

ESPN and Rivals rate him a four-star prospect. 247sports.com rates him the 25th best outside linebacker prospect.

Here’s how ESPN evaluated him: “Looks and plays bigger on tape than his measurables indicate. Tough customer. Will need to fill out his lengthy frame to play OLB fulltime at the college level. Runs well showing very good up-field speed and range. This young man can cover the field and make plays in all three levels. Closes well and flashes ability to chase down ball carriers on a straight line pursuing from the backside....

“If Wilder had a bit more size he would be higher on our board. A bit of hybrid, tweener that projects favorably in a system that utilizes him as a rush backer given he adds the appropriate size over time. We question his straight-line movements and overall fluidity to play as a pure OLB. Either way he'll find a role -- fast and physical defender with some attributes you simply can't coach.”

Carol City coach Aubrey Hill, UM’s former wide receivers coach, told Canesport.com that UM plans to use Wilder at linebacker.

"Oh, man he's a good player, is a kid that can really, really run, has great size, great physicality, is very explosive," Hill told Canesport. "He's been a three-year starter here and I think at the next level if he continues and gets bigger and stronger he'll be outstanding. He's going to a really good program at the University of Miami, and I think he'll help them. He's a good asset and a really good kid."

Wilder is UM’s 20th oral commitment and third linebacker oral commitment.

We have lots of Heat news and nuggets in my two Heat posts from Toronto today: one here (on Josh McRoberts and Josh Richardson) and another here (on the Heat’s popularity post-Dwyane Wade). Please check those out and please follow me on Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

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