Time has come to ask a serious, albeit sacrilegious, question:
What’s wrong with Cameron Wake and Robert Quinn?
And can it be fixed?
Wake and Quinn were supposed to be Miami’s dynamic duo on the defensive line.
But through seven weeks, they have given the Dolphins very little: Just one sack each, an unacceptable figure considering they are earning more than $18 million combined this year.
Their lack of production is the biggest reason the Dolphins rank 29th in sacks with just 11.
With no pass rush to speak of, the Dolphins’ secondary cannot hang in there on the back end, allowing 269 yards per game through the air — a figure that would be much higher if not for their 14 forced turnovers, which ranks fifth in the league.
Here’s the real gauge of Miami’s pass defense: The Dolphins are surrendering 8.3 yards per pass attempt, fourth most in football.
The news got worse for the Dolphins on Tuesday when Adam Gase ruled out defensive end Charles Harris for the third game in a row with a calf strain.
But he was supposed to be a complementary piece. Wake and Quinn were supposed to be the stars.
So what’s wrong with them? Is it age, health, or both?
Wake turned 36 this offseason, and might finally be showing signs of age. Health has been an issue; he missed two games with a knee injury, which needed to be scoped, ESPN reported.
“I feel good,” he insisted Tuesday, just before the team boarded a flight to Houston.
But Wake has not been great even when healthy this year.
This is by far the fewest sacks that Wake has had through the Dolphins’ seventh game of any season in his career.
Even as a rookie, when he was a part-time player, Wake had 2.5 sacks at this point of the season.
But there’s more. Wake has one sack over the last five games in which he has appeared. His only worse stretch as a pro: when he went five straight without a sack in late 2014 into early 2015.
“If my job is to get to the quarterback, and I don’t do it, then it’s a failure,” Wake said. “If we as a team don’t win, then it’s a failure. Offense, defense, personally.”
As for Quinn, the news is no better. He is also historically unproductive this year. And it is far from what the Dolphins expected when they gave up a fourth-round pick for him before the start of training camp.
Quinn not only has just one sack on the season, he has one over his last nine NFL games, dating back to his time with the Rams.
That suggests his issues in Los Angeles went beyond playing out of position. Rather, Quinn has not been the same player since undergoing back surgery midway through the 2015 season. Quinn averaged a sack every 1.4 games before the injury, but one every 2.3 since.
Dolphins coach Adam Gase has long said that he doesn’t care about sacks, and was a bit combative when asked this week about the team’s poor showing in that regard.
“Where are we at in pass disruption?” Gase said. “Where is our pass disruption as far as hits and pressures and sacks and stuff like that? That’s what I care about. Sacks are irrelevant. If you’re causing pressure on the quarterback and he’s getting rid of the ball faster, that’s what we care about.”
The logical follow-up: So how disruptive has his defense been?
“It’s not good enough because we want to be up in the top five and we haven’t done that,” Gase said. “Getting Cam back and another game under his belt, that will kind of help us. We just have to keep figuring out a way to free a couple of guys probably early because they’re keying on those defensive ends. I think every game that [Andre] Branch plays, he’ll keep getting stronger and keep coming. We’re kind of in that middle of the season where everybody is banged up and we just have to push through it.”
The numbers in that regard are better, but not great. Miami is 17th in quarterback hits with 35, but eight of the teams they lead have played one fewer game.
Again, the players the Dolphins expected to lead the charge have fallen short. Wake has a mere three quarterback hits; Quinn has just six.
“If we win is the only goal,” Wake said. “I don’t count the stats. The only stat that matters is winning. We didn’t win, so we didn’t do a good enough job.”