Cam Wake has lined up opposite a former No. 1 overall draft (Mario Williams). He’s lined up against a player who parlayed his work in Miami into the richest contract ever for a 4-3 defensive end (Olivier Vernon). He has lined up with a Hall of Famer (Jason Taylor).
But considering Taylor was in the late stages of his career (and playing linebacker, not defensive end) when he played with Wake, Robert Quinn has a chance to give the Dolphins the most productive season by a defensive end ever to line up opposite Wake.
Quinn’s sterling preseason — including three sacks — has raised expectations that he could again be the player who was an elite pass-rushing menace for the Rams (40 sacks between 2012-14) before injuries and a position switch diminished that production in recent years.
“I know this, I’m really glad that we made that trade,” coach Adam Gase said of the March swap that sent a fourth-round pick to the Rams for Quinn, with the teams also exchanging sixth-round pick.
“They approached us and [executive vice president of football operations] Mike Tannenbaum and [general manager] Chris [Grier] acted quickly and they found a way to get it done. Ever since he’s been here, he’s just been so consistent with everything he’s done. He practices the way he plays in games; there’s no change. He’s harassing the quarterback all of the time.
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“I’ve personally faced him quite a bit between Denver and Chicago and he was a nightmare to deal with. Just being on the same side as him, it’s a good feeling because you know it’s just a matter of time where he’s going to make a play. He’s disruptive. When you are playing quarterback, you can feel him coming all of the time.”
Quinn says he’s simply more comfortable playing 4-3 defensive end, where the Dolphins are using him, than serve as a 3-4 outside linebacker, where he played in 2017 in a 8.5-sack, 32-tackle season for the Rams.
“This defense is really what he was raised in — I guess that’s the best way to put it,” Gase said. “When he came in the league, this is
what he did. It’s what he did in college.
“And when you switch to a 3-4 defense ... all of a sudden now you’re standing up. I do think he’s comfortable having his hand in the dirt.
He did a good job last year; I just don’t think he was comfortable doing that. He doesn’t have to worry about coverage and dropping and things like that” any more.
So how much should Quinn’s presence benefit Wake? Wake’s best sack season (15 in 2012) came during a year when he played opposite Jared Odrick, who wasn’t as productive as Vernon.
Wake said Quinn’s presence should help him in theory but “I’ve seen all kinds of different looks as far as blocking schemes and chips and guards clearing pockets and things like that.
“But I think to give you a general answer, yes it would be greatly beneficial to everybody involved — me included — to have multiple guys who can cause problems for the offense as far as pass rush goes. There’s only so many guys you can put back there. If they’re double-teaming two guys and the other two guys have to win — whoever that may be — if they’re not, still you’ve got to win.”
And beyond attracting attention from multiple offensive linemen, Gase sees this potential advantage for the Dolphins’ other pass rushers: “A lot of times [Quinn] can get a guy to stop his feet and redirect and that’s enough time for our [other] guys to swarm and make a play.”
Quinn, asked if he ever wonders if he can get back to the level of 19.5 sacks in 2013, said: “Nineteen is at the bottom of my totem poll. That should be my standard number. That’s my expectation. Don’t sell yourself short.I love rushing from the right side at the left tackle. I love being on that side. I’m in a good spot now.”
BY THE NUMBERS
Here are the sack numbers for the Dolphins’ starting defensive ends since Cam Wake moved from linebacker to end in 2012:
2012: Wake (16 starts): 15 sacks; Jared Odrick (16 games, 12 starts): 5 sacks
2013: Wake (15 games and 15 starts): 8.5 sacks; Olivier Vernon (16 games, 14 starts): 11.5 sacks
2014: Wake (16 starts): 11.5 sacks; Vernon (16 starts): 6.5 sacks
2015: Wake (7 starts, 7 games): 7 sacks; Vernon (16 starts): 7.5 sacks
2016: Wake (16 games, 11 starts): 11.5 sacks; Andre Branch (16 games, 11 starts): 5.5 sacks and Mario Williams (13 games, 5 starts): 1.5 sacks; Andre Branch
2017: Wake (16 starts): 10.5 sacks; Branch (14 games, 14 starts): 4.5 sacks
Note: During Jason Taylor’s two seasons on the team with Wake as a teammate (2009, 2011), both played outside linebacker. Wake had 5.5 sacks and Taylor 7 in 2009, while Wake had 8.5 and Taylor 7.0 in 2011.
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