Cameron Wake leads Miami's turnaround
When observers describe a player as a “right tackle only” because of that player’s limited athletic ability to handle dynamic pass-rushers coming off the edge, they should be shown a tape of Dolphins edge rusher Cameron Wake destroying the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
Wake lined up on the left side of the Miami defensive line on all but one of his snaps, putting him across from rookie RT Jeremiah Poutasi and then Jamon Meredith after Poutasi was called ashore. In only 13 pass-blocking snaps, Poutasi surrendered three sacks to Wake, the third of which was a strip sack recovered by the Dolphins and resulting in the right tackle getting sent to the bench. Replacement Meredith didn’t fare an awful lot better, being beaten multiple times and surrendering a sack and hurry himself.
Most teams value left tackles more than they do right tackles. Left tackles are the elite pass-protecting linemen who shut down the opponent’s best pass-rusher. This has been true dating all the way back to when Lawrence Taylor was playing. The issue is that while many teams do still rush their best player from that side, there are plenty of elite players that don’t. Cameron Wake, Von Miller, Justin Houston are three of the most devastating pass-rushers in the league — all three come primarily from the opposite side.
No longer can you get away with one good pass-blocking tackle and a second guy who is more of a run-blocking mauler, because he will be facing that kind of elite pass-rusher most plays. In today’s NFL, “right tackle only” is a guard, and the guy at right tackle needs to be every bit as accomplished as the guy at left tackle when it comes to protecting the quarterback.
This was a perfect example of one pass-rusher almost single-handedly affecting a game, and it went perfectly hand in hand with Miami’s revival across the board.
After struggling badly for most of the season, Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill had one of those games that led us to grading him as a top-10 QB entering the season. He completed 22 of 28 passes, and while he did throw interceptions, one of them was a result of a miscommunication with his receiver, and his performance was overall vastly improved. We saw corresponding impressive grades from WRs Kenny Stills, Rishard Matthews and Jarvis Landry, and even some signs of life from RB Lamar Miller.
On defense, while Wake was the star of the show, Ndamukong Suh had another strong game despite not posting a sack. Suh did tally two hurries and a batted pass, and his impact this season goes far behind recording simple sacks, which can be transient and difficult to nail down.
The Dolphins needed this game to get their season back on track. With the Patriots looking yet again invincible within the division, Miami needs to get its house in order to have any hope of a wild-card spot. This was a step in the right direction, at least.