Since the start of the 2009 season, Wake's second in the NFL, he has recorded 48.5 sacks, the fifth-highest total in the NFL over that span. The list of names in front of him is essentially a roll call of the league's most decorated sack artists: Jared Allen, DeMarcus Ware, Tamba Hali, Robert Mathis. The Dolphins have found one of those rare commodities in the NFL: a pass-rusher seemingly destined for double-digit sacks every season. So far this year, through eight games, Wake has 5.5 more QB takedowns, putting him on pace for 11.
How the Dolphins found him is a little bit rare, too. Wake was undrafted out of Penn State in 2005 and though he signed with the New York Giants he was let go even before the start of training camp. He spent the next year as a mortgage broker before picking up the game again in Canada in 2007. When he proceeded to rack up 39 sacks and two Canadian Football League Defensive Player of the Year awards in two years, the NFL was interested again, and he signed with Miami in 2009. He has proved to be no Northern fluke; Wake's 48.5 sacks as a Dolphin are already 11th all-time among undrafted players, a list headed by Reggie White and John Randle.
So Wake knows business, and he knows the business of football, and he's not about to let anything distract him from the process of preparing to chase Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon on Monday night.
The potential distraction Wake is addressing, of course, is the locker room issue that has led to the departure of starting right tackle Jonathan Martin and the subsequent suspension of starting left guard Richie Incognito. The loss of two-fifths of the starting offensive is a concrete consequence the Dolphins have to deal with, but other than that Wake has not let the massive attention drawn by the situation change his work habits because he's practiced at avoiding the things that will lessen his efficiency.
“To be honest with you, I have conducted myself, and I’m sure most of the other guys have, just the way I have last week, two weeks ago, three weeks ago," he said. "I don’t go home and watch TV. Personally I don’t pay attention to that, I don’t read the newspaper. If it’s not helping me prepare for the next game, in my mind it’s a waste of time, whether it’s playing video games or watching the newscast. It’s just me, that’s kind of how I conduct myself.
"In the locker room this isn’t an issue, we talk about football, we talk about making plays, stunts, tackling, catching the ball, whatever it may be. Again, asking me, and asking my peers and the guys that are playing football with me, this isn’t a subject. To me it’s kind of silly, I’m in here trying to talk about football and everybody wants to talk about something else.”
What does have Wake's attention this week: The Buccaneers. After Tampa Bay just missed pulling a big upset in Seattle last Sunday on the strength of a rushing attack that produced 205 yards, Wake and his teammates have done plenty of film study to see what they're up against. At the beginning of the season, one would have assumed that a 200-yard ground game for the Buccaneers meant another big game for 2012 sensation
“I’m definitely impressed," said Wake of James, the former Miami Hurricane who is a relatively new consideration for Buccaneer opponents. "It’s interesting –that’s why we play this game. Every week, week in, week out, it doesn’t matter if you are a quote-unquote, 'marquee guy,' or not, this is the NFL. You have the best of the best on the planet to do it. He’s obviously running the ball well. Obviously, Seattle is a good defense. They’re running the ball well, taking care of the football, all of the ingredients to make plays and win at the end of the game.”
The Bucs' offense is awash in rookies right now, with James taking handoffs from Glennon, a fellow 2013 draftee, and undrafted free agent TE Tim Wright emerging as a real threat. The most important part of that trio, when it comes to determining the outcome of the game, is Glennon, who has played with a poise that belies his lack of experience. Most notably, Glennon hasn't thrown an interception in 141 straight passes, covering three and a half games.
Wake has seen that aspect of the Buccaneers' recent style of play, too, and knows it's another challenge for him and his fellow Dolphin defenders. Of course, Wake has conquered many challenges on his path to becoming one of the most consistently productive pass-rushers in the NFL. Whatever possible distractions stand in his way this week, he'll have no problem ignoring them to keep his attention on more pressing issues like pressuring Glennon out of the comfort zone he has found.
“Well to begin with, taking care of the football [has been a strength for Glennon]," said Wake. "Probably one of the largest stats in the game is turnovers. He’s taking care of the football, making smart decisions. Maybe he’s a young guy, maybe he doesn’t have as many stripes, but at the same time he is playing at a different level and anytime you have a guy like that running the show, you have to be on your P’s and Q’s as a defense. That’s definitely a challenge that we’re ready to face and we’re already preparing for that and we’ll definitely be ready come Monday night.”