Dolphins’ “Unblockable” Cameron Wake gets sack in fourth straight game

It’s still very difficult to get away from Cameron Wake. (Getty Images)

ATLANTA—Cameron Wake would have a difficult time passing for a guy who’s almost 36, and the way he’s playing right now has to make him think he could do this into his 40s.

In the two years since Wake suffered a career-threatening ruptured Achilles, he’s stormed back to the upper echelon of NFL pass rushers. As good as he was last season, this year looks even better.

Wake sacked Matt Ryan early in the fourth quarter of the Dolphins’ 20-17 win over the Falcons today to push his total to 3.5. He has at least a half-sack in each of the last four games and looks as dominant as he feels.

[RELATED: Great photos from the Dolphins’ huge win over the Falcons]

“I do feel good,” he said. “Every time I go out there, I look across the field and I feel like I’m unblockable. But that’s been the case since the first time I put football pads on. I take that same mentality into every game.

“I don’t care who you are. Whether it’s your first-ever game or you’re an all-pro, you’re not gonna block me. This is my day. I’m gonna do what I want. That’s my mindset every game, and I still feel good doing it.”

Wake’s sack was a big one as the Dolphins rallied from a 17-0 hole. He dropped Ryan on second-and-20 near midfield, setting up a nearly impossible third-and-24. The Falcons punted, and Miami drove down for the game-tying field goal on the ensuing drive.

The Dolphins hit Ryan five times, including the sacks by Wake and Ndamukong Suh, and held him to 24-for-35 passing, 248 yards and one touchdown against one interception for an 86.4 passer rating.

“We forced situations where they had to throw the ball, and that’s where we thrive,” Wake said. “Obviously, we have a great front seven and we are going to put the offense in a situation where they can’t just dink and dunk. If you try to hold the ball, it’s our job as a front to get there and make you pay for it.”

Coming off last year’s 11.5 sacks (matching his third-highest total), Wake is now at 85 for his career. That ties him with Osi Umenyiora for 50th all time, and Wake would climb into the top 40 if he gets another 10 by the end of the season.

[Adam Gase teaching Jay Cutler how to play like an old quarterback]

[The Dolphins’ Wildcat fiasco]

[What happened to all the Dolphins’ big plays?]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook

Ever confident, Adam Gase gets biggest win of Dolphins tenure

Adam Gase has never won a game this big with the Dolphins. (AP)

ATLANTA—Adam Gase isn’t the type of coach who will stomp around and scream after a win, even one the Dolphins needed this desperately, but he’s got players who can show him how it’s done. And after he pulled off the biggest win of his tenure with Miami, one of them wanted to make sure he didn’t miss the joyous celebration.

As Gase walked off from the Dolphins’ 20-17 comeback over the Falcons, his eyes dead set on the locker room tunnel and his mind already skipping ahead to post-game obligations, Jarvis Landry upended him. Landry wrapped him up in a bear hug and hoisted him skyward in a moment that let everyone know how much relief there was for an offense that had been totally incompetent over the past month.

[RELATED: Great photos from the Dolphins’ huge win over the Falcons]

Gase might not think so, but he needed that validation and there’s no more meaningful source from which it could’ve come. Nothing the media says, no roar from the crowd, can compare to Landry lifting him off his feet and smacking his back a few times in jubilation.

“It means a lot to me,” said Gase, who’s been as much under fire as anyone for Miami’s mess of an offense. “Those guys are battling with physicality, and we’re on the sideline. We’re spectators for the most part. You do everything you can to put them in the best position possible. Really, it’s their game. We’re just kinda there with them.

“I think he knew how I felt about getting things going on offense. With that being the side of the ball that I’m in charge of, we hadn’t really done anything, and I kinda felt like we were letting the defense down. He knew I wanted to get it going.”

Getting it going is the right way to describe what the offense did Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It wasn’t barrage, but at least it was a start. For the first time in a month, there’s some shred of potential for the Dolphins to claim.

It didn’t look like it was headed that way in the first half, when Jay Cutler threw away their only decent drive with confounding interception at Atlanta’s end of the field and the Dolphins trudged into halftime down 17-0.

But here’s where we see one aspect of Gase that truly makes him head coach material instead of just another play caller. It’s the unwavering self-confidence that makes these guys follow him. When almost everyone on the outside thought Atlanta was cruising toward a blowout, Gase got the Dolphins in the locker room at halftime, pointed out some positives and told the offense exactly how he saw the rest of the day playing out.

“Everything he told us at halftime came to light,” Jermon Bushrod said. “We did what he said we were gonna do, what we knew we could do.”

That’s a viable narrative given that the Dolphins opened the third quarter with one of their most impressive drives of the year. From their own 25-yard line, they all the way down the field in 15 plays (only one for negative yardage) and capped a nearly nine-minute possession with Cutler’s short touchdown pass to Kenny Stills.

You remember Cutler, right? The guy everyone booed last week when he put up a 52.1 passer rating at home? Those chants for Matt Moore only make Gase more resolute.

“That’s why I don’t listen to anything,” he said. “I’m gonna do what I want to do and I’m gonna do what’s best for the team. That’s how we’re gonna operate. I know the direction we’re headed. I watch practice every day. I go through the steps with these guys every day.

Defiant Gase is the best Gase. That’s the streak in his personality that makes him bet big on fourth downs, which he did successfully on 2 of 3 tries in Atlanta.

It took some good fortune for the Dolphins on Sunday, too, and few would deny they deserved to catch a break or two after a string of bad bounces. This game was a confluence of everything they needed, and it produced the kind of win that can change the course of a season.

After the defense forced a three-and-out, Miami got its next scoring chance with the help of a botched punt, a phantom pass interference call and a roughing the passer flag that negated a Cutler interception. That left little work to do, and Gase was on such a hot streak that the pass play he called for Stills surprisingly sprung Landry open instead.

The Dolphins flooded the right side, and Landry initially started running from left to right, then cut back and found himself striding toward the end zone with no one near him as he cut Atlanta’s lead to 17-14. It was perfectly imperfect.

“I don’t know if they just thought Jarvis was going across the field on a reverse or what really happened,” Gase said. “Normally they cover him. It kinda worked out.”

It’s hard to remember the last time anything came that easily for Miami’s offense.

The Dolphins kept scratching with Cody Parkey’s tying field goal from 49 yards and his game winner from 38 with 2:30 remaining. Their five second-half possessions were touchdown, touchdown, field goal, field goal, run out the clock in victory formation. Usually those drive charts have been cluttered with punts and turnovers.

This wasn’t championship-caliber offense by any means, but it was good and it signal the start of something bigger. It’s also the first time since the opener Gase left the field with something resembling a smile on his face.

“It’s what this team needed,” Landry said. “It’s what we all needed, especially him.”

[Adam Gase teaching Jay Cutler how to play like an old quarterback]

[The Dolphins’ Wildcat fiasco]

[What happened to all the Dolphins’ big plays?]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook

Miami Dolphins inactives: Who’s in/out vs. Atlanta Falcons?

DeVante Parker is a no-go for the Dolphins. (Getty Images)

ATLANTA—The Dolphins are already outmanned by the Falcons personnel-wise heading into today’s game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and the task of pulling an upset will be even more difficult without star receiver DeVante Parker.

Parker will miss his first game of the season after injuring his ankle in last weekend’s win over Tennessee and sitting out practice all week. That’s a tough blow for the Dolphins given he’s their leader in receiving yards at 236 and is second with 19 catches.

Without Parker, the Dolphins will look to Leonte Carroo and Jakeem Grant for significant snaps. Carroo gets his shot first and will start in Parker’s place.

Here is the full list of Miami’s inactives today:

WR DeVante Parker
OG Isaac Asiata
T Sam Young
LB Stephone Anthony
CB Torry McTyer
CB Byron Maxwell
S Maurice Smith

And here are some other notes:

— LB Rey Maualuga will make his second straight start.

— CB Cordrea Tankersley will start for the third straight game.

— DT Jordan Phillips makes his return from an ankle injury he suffered in the season opener and will start.

[RELATED: Live photo gallery from the Dolphins-Falcons game in Atlanta]

[Adam Gase teaching Jay Cutler how to play like an old quarterback]

[The Dolphins’ Wildcat fiasco]

[What happened to all the Dolphins’ big plays?]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook

Three position groups of concern for Miami Dolphins vs. Atlanta Falcons

Jarvis Landry needs to do serious damage for the Dolphins to have a shot at Atlanta. (Bill Ingram/The Post)

ATLANTA—Few people are giving the Dolphins a chance in this one, but a win over Atlanta on Sunday could change the course of their entire season. That’d be a landmark victory and it’d set them up nicely for a run toward the top of the AFC East at 3-2.

Of course, even if Miami pulls this off, it’ll be incredibly difficult. The Falcons are 3-1, including a win over the Packers, and ranks third in the league in total offense. They’re overwhelming through the air on the ground.

Here are three position groups that will make the difference one way or the other for the Dolphins on Sunday:

Cornerbacks
The Dolphins assert that cornerback is a strength, but Julio Jones will make any team question itself on that. This is a 6-foot-4, 220-pound weapon that terrorizes secondaries like no one else in the NFL. It appears Miami will play left side and right side with him, which would mean Atlanta dictates the matchups between Xavien Howard and Cordrea Tankersley. It’ll be interesting to see what the Dolphins do with Byron Maxwell, who’s been inactive the last two weeks for what seem to be performance-related reasons, though he’s been on the injury report with a foot issue.

Offensive line
The only one in this group who’s been consistently excellent is Mike Pouncey. It’s going to take a lot more than that. Laremy Tunsil and Ja’Wuan James are both capable of playing better. Jermon Bushrod and Anthony Steen know their spots are increasingly under pressure as Ted Larsen gets healthier. Just like last season, nothing’s going to change in this offense unless the line gets it together. Perhaps the chaos of this week will spur them to their breakthrough. If the line holds up, suddenly Jay Cutler and Jay Ajayi will look a lot better.

Wide receivers
Is DeVante Parker going to play? That’s a big puzzler for the Dolphins, and they’re going to have trouble going vertical without him. Jarvis Landry has to be nearly perfect. Kenny Stills has to reestablish himself as a deep threat, something he showed last year and in the recent preseason. And if Parker doesn’t play, that means Leonte Carroo and Jakeem Grant will. It looks likely Carroo will get the snaps—Adam Gase said he regretted not giving him more opportunity last weekend—and he’s been dying for the chance to prove himself.

[Adam Gase teaching Jay Cutler how to play like an old quarterback]

[The Dolphins’ Wildcat fiasco]

[What happened to all the Dolphins’ big plays?]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook

Miami Dolphins DT Jordan Phillips says he’ll return vs. Falcons

Jordan Phillips will return this week, he said. (Getty Images)

DAVIE—The Dolphins’ defensive line, which has been very good so far, will get a boost Sunday with the return of Jordan Phillips.

Phillips has been out since hurting his ankle in the season opener, but said today he feels like himself again and made it clear that he’ll be playing against the Falcons.

“I’ve felt good,” he said. “I felt like I got over the hump this week. I’m in a good place. Strength is good. I’m good.”

Phillips beat out rookie Davon Godchaux for the starting job at the end of the preseason, but Godchaux took over after the injury. The Dolphins have not said which player will start alongside Ndamukong Suh.

Depending on how confident the Dolphins are in Phillips’ health, that could mean rookie Vincent Taylor will be inactive.

Phillips felt good enough to play last week, but still wasn’t 100 percent healthy. He’s back to full strength now and thinks his conditioning is where it needs to be after an extra week working at it.

“Yeah, it sucked not being back out there for sure,” he said. “But I couldn’t do anything about it. It’s gonna heal when it heals.”

[Adam Gase teaching Jay Cutler how to play like an old quarterback]

[The Dolphins’ Wildcat fiasco]

[What happened to all the Dolphins’ big plays?]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook

Post staff predictions: Dolphins vs. Falcons might be closer than you think

What are our Miami Dolphins writers expecting on Sunday when the Fins travel to Atlanta to face the Falcons in Week 6?

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jakeem Grant (19) returns a punt during the second quarter against the Atlanta Falcons at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on August 10, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Joe Schad, Beat writer

Likely being without DeVante Parker hurts. How is Miami going to create big plays? The biggest issue is on defense. This is Miami’s greatest test. They have not faced an offensive trio as potent as Matt Ryan-Devonta Freeman-Julio Jones. But this will be closer than the experts say. I think Miami shows some signs of growth on offense, but they’re simply outscored.

Falcons 28, Dolphins 24


Jason Lieser, Beat writer

The Dolphins are due for a breakout, and look for them to keep pace with Atlanta’s offense. This is the biggest opponent they’ve faced all season, but they’ve got the personnel up front and in the secondary to wrestle with the Falcons. Atlanta’s defense is very suspect, especially against the pass, which sets up nicely for Jay Cutler to have a breakthrough performance.

Dolphins 24, Falcons 21


Hal Habib, Beat writer

Looking forward to seeing what the Dolphins’ new-and-improved defense can do against Atlanta’s triplets (Matt Ryan/Devonta Freeman/Julio Jones). I expect the D to slow them, but will it be enough for Miami’s offense to keep pace? At a time when every first down is a blessing from above? I think not.

Falcons 24, Dolphins 10


Dave George, Columnist

That win over the Titans didn’t convince me of much, except that the Dolphins defense had better keep providing points on its own. This week it’s Matt Ryan, not Matt Cassel. Same name, same game, different species.

Falcons 27, Dolphins 16

Miami Dolphins practice report: WR DeVante Parker looks doubtful

DeVante Parker remains in question for the Atlanta game. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

DAVIE–It’s looking increasingly unlikely that the Dolphins will have wide receiver DeVante Parker for Sunday’s game against the Falcons.

Parker was not on the field for today’s practice, staying in the building for treatment on his injured ankle. He has not practiced all week.

If he’s unable to play Sunday, the Dolphins will count on Jakeem Grant (two catches, 11 yards) and Leonte Carroo (no catches) in his place. Grant played 33 snaps after Parker exited against the Titans last weekend, though coach Adam Gase said he regretted not giving Carroo a bigger opportunity.

Parker is first on the team with 236 yards and second in receptions at 19. Jay Cutler has targeted him on 28 attempts.

All other players on Miami’s active roster were available to practice today. Running back Jay Ajayi (knee), cornerback Byron Maxwell (foot) and center Mike Pouncey (hip) were on the field.

Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips has been out three weeks with an ankle injury, but has practiced the last two weeks and should be active Sunday.

[Adam Gase unwilling to explain why he isn’t allowing players to kneel for national anthem]

[Miami Dolphins can be one of NFL’s elite defenses]

[Grading the Dolphins after a 16-10 beating of the Titans]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook

Dolphins vs. Falcons: How do they match up in Week 6?

Dolphins defensive tackle Davon Godchaux (56) fights off blockers during pre-season game at Hard Rock Stadium. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

How do the Miami Dolphins and Atlanta Falcons match up for Sunday’s NFL Week 6 tilt at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium?

When the Dolphins have the ball…

Miami passing offense (32nd in NFL) vs. Atlanta pass defense (17th in NFL)

The Miami Dolphins, statistically, have the worst passing offense in football, but that doesn’t even do justice somehow to how bad it’s been. Any sign of hope that Jay Cutler provided in Week 1 has been all but stripped away by a consistent stream of passes behind the line of scrimmage and an inability or unwillingness to live up to his gunslinger reputation. The weapons are still there, even if DeVante Parker is forced to miss time with an ankle injury, but for now, Adam Gase’s ultra-conservative play-calling is serving as a safety on those weapons. The Falcons are middle-of-the-pack in terms of pass defense, but if recent history is any indication, that should be more than enough to hold Cutler in check. Edge: Atlanta

Miami rushing offense (31st) vs. Atlanta rush defense (11th)

Jay Ajayi has not been helped by the team’s lack of a passing game and, as a result, hasn’t been able to live up to his preseason expectations. With only 261 yards on 76 carries through four games, it’s clear that the holes haven’t opened up, which makes sense considering the lack of respect that the passing offense commands from opposing defenses. Without a steady diet of touches or first downs, Sunday is shaping up to be another unspectacular day for Miami’s rushing offense, but any type of offensive rhythm could bode well for them, as the Falcons have allowed 4.2 yards per rush attempts so far this season. Edge: Atlanta


When the Falcons have the ball…

Atlanta passing offense (7th) vs Miami pass defense (22nd)

Matt Ryan and Julio Jones help make Atlanta’s aerial assault one the most prolific in the league. It will take a team effort for Miami to stop Jones, who has gained a relatively quiet 295 yards on 19 receptions so far this year and has yet to find the end zone. The Falcons also do a good job of getting everyone involved on offense, with 11 different players registering a reception so far this season. Tight end Austin Hooper has been the second-most reliable receiver for Ryan and may cause matchup problems for Miami’s linebackers. The Falcons just have too many weapons. Edge: Atlanta

Atlanta rushing offense (8th) vs Miami rush defense (4th)

Miami’s rush defense continues to be the most positive surprise of the season, turning around after a terrible season in 2016 and becoming the team’s biggest strength. Atlanta will be another stiff test, as Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman have combined for 466 yards this season, with Freeman tallying five rushing scores. It’s fair to question whether Miami big boys up front will be fatigued from working so hard to keep the team in games the last few weeks, but assuming they’re at full strength, the Dolphins should have a slight edge.  Edge: Miami


Special teams

Miami’s rookie punter Matt Haack has been good, averaging 47.4 yards per punt this year. Cody Parkey, on the other hand, has been terrible on extra points, having missed two of his four attempts. While that’s a reason for concern, Parkey has connected on all five of his field-goal attempts. Atlanta’s veteran duo of Matt Bryant and Matt Bosher has been great all year, with Bryant going 9-for-9 on field-goal attempts and 11-for-11 on extra points and Bosher averaging 46.2 yards on his 12 punts. Edge: Atlanta

Lieser: Everything’s on hold for Miami Dolphins as they wait on QB Jay Cutler

Cutler (right) didn’t play in the opening preseason game. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

MIAMI GARDENS—The preseason opener was even emptier than usual for the Dolphins on Thursday, and their 23-20 win over Atlanta was little more than another few hours in their wait for Jay Cutler.

Does anything really matter until he takes the field?

Without Cutler, who spent the evening on the sideline with an earpiece listening to the play calls, Miami feels like it’s in a holding pattern. Matt Moore is taking first-string snaps while knowing full well that Cutler is Plan A, and backups Brandon Doughty and David Fales are long shots merely to make the roster. The latter two played most of Thursday’s game.

The Dolphins also went without most of their offensive line, and it’d be interesting to know how many guys would’ve played if it’d been their first dress rehearsal with Cutler instead of essentially another practice with the reserves.

It didn’t help that Jay Ajayi was out, too. Most of what was left of Miami’s starting offense checked out in the first quarter, and Moore left after a nondescript three-and-out highlighted by a five-yard pass to DeVante Parker.

Whether Adam Gase and the team see it this way or not—Gase probably doesn’t—everything seems to be on pause for the offense until Cutler is ready to play, which could be next Thursday against Baltimore.

It’s understandable given Ryan Tannehill’s abrupt exit with a knee injury and Cutler’s equally sudden arrival. It’s smart, too, for Gase to take his time easing Cutler into the job.

“I’m a little bit behind these guys,” Cutler said Monday when asked about his conditioning. “They’ve been going through training camp and stuff like that. I’m not quite there yet, but it won’t take me long.”

The familiarity between Gase and Cutler will expedite the transition. “He’s got it all down already,” Gase said. There’s no concern about that. The trickier part of the process will be bringing Cutler along physically after an offseason that included little football work. That’s the part that might test Gase’s patience.

The Dolphins are relying on Cutler’s feedback, as well as input from the training staff, as they build his arm strength to the point that he can throw a full practice worth of passes.

“You don’t have to worry about his arm strength,” Gase said.

That’s been his mantra throughout Miami’s injury-riddled offseason. Confidence is his trademark and it pervades the locker room. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out in the he handles Cutler. Will Gase confidently send him into action next week, or will he confidently hold him out believing he’ll be ready without these reps?

The team gets Friday off before shifting into a semi-normal game week schedule Saturday. That will be the first of four straight practices followed by a walk-through day leading up to the Baltimore game. It’d be ideal for Cutler to get at least a few series in that game. The Dolphins have two left after playing the Ravens, including the final preseason game that most teams virtually ignore.

One aspect Cutler needs to work on is cohesion with a new set of skill players. Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills, Julius Thomas and Parker had never caught a ball from him prior to Tuesday’s practice, and both sides need to learn the other’s preferences and tendencies by the Sept. 10 season opener.

Moore’s night opened with a couple of handoffs to Damien Williams, who rushed for 18 yards on six carries as the primary back in place of Ajayi. Kenyan Drake followed with 21 on four.

Moore spent some of his night talking with Cutler on the sideline, and the one discernable element of Cutler’s night was that his introduction to the team seems to be going well. He was chatting up Tannehill and Dan Marino on the field before the game, when he went through a full slate of warmups, and shared some laughs with Moore in the first quarter.

It won’t be this relaxed for long, and these preseason games will take on a completely different tone once Cutler steps into the backfield.

[Dolphins lose starting linebacker Raekwon McMillan in preseason opener]

[Dolphins owner Stephen Ross says team was “lucky” to get Jay Cutler]

[Five takeaways from Dolphins-Falcons]

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Dolphins-Falcons: Several key players sitting out first preseason game

Laremy Tunsil (67) is on a long list of guys sitting out tonight. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

MIAMI GARDENS–It’ll be a watered-down version of the Miami Dolphins in their preseason opener tonight.

After a rough start to training camp injury-wise, the exhibition against Atlanta won’t look anything like what Miami intends for the regular season.

Offensively, the Dolphins will sit their entire starting offensive line other than right guard Jermon Bushrod. Mike Pouncey (hip), Laremy Tunsil (personal reasons), Ted Larsen (biceps) and Ja’Wuan James (rest) have been scratched.

The starting quarterback behind Miami’s makeshift line is Matt Moore, who isn’t likely to play long. With Jay Cutler still not ready to play, most of the snaps tonight will be taken by Brandon Doughty and David Fales.

The Dolphins are also sitting Jay Ajayi, who was in the concussion protocol as of Tuesday. It’s unknown whether he’s been cleared to return. The team is off Friday and will resume practice Saturday.

Safety Nate Allen and backup linebacker Neville Hewitt have been injured the past few days and won’t play tonight.

[Adam Gase on why he gets along with Jay Cutler: “We’re both smartasses”]

[No regrets: Jay Cutler feels right at home in first Dolphins practice]

[Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry says he did nothing wrong as legal investigation continues]

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