Wake's importance rising for Dolphins

DAVIE, Fla. -- Sacks allowed aren't an official NFL stat, yet some statistical services break down film in an attempt to come up with a number.

Miami Dolphins left tackle Jake Long gave up four or five, depending on the critic. Not many for a blocker trying to fend off blindside attacks. That's why Long went to his second Pro Bowl in two seasons.

In the past week, Long has surrendered about as many sacks to outside linebacker Cameron Wake as he did through 16 games last year.

"Cam's good, man," said Long, his face covered in sweat and grass after Wednesday morning's training-camp workout.

Wake, the former Canadian Football League phenom, has a grand chance to make an impact for the Dolphins' defense. All-decade outside linebackers, Joey Porter and Jason Taylor, are gone.

"That opportunity's out there," Wake said, "and every day I'm just trying to go out there and learn and improve and let the coaches in the organization [know] you can be one of those guys that can make plays."

The Dolphins imported Wake last year after two obnoxious seasons for the BC Lions. Wake, an undrafted defensive end out of Penn State, amassed 39 sacks -- 16 as a rookie and 23 the second year.

The NFL transition wasn't smooth. Wake possessed obvious athleticism, but wasn't an impact performer right away. He was scratched the first two games. His lone start came in the regular-season finale. He finished with 11 tackles but had 5.5 sacks, showing Miami's front office enough to confidently cut ties with Porter and Taylor.

Long has been impressed by Wake's development from one training camp to the next.

"He's still got the same moves, but he's perfected them," Long said. "He's gotten better and better as the year went on last year. He's better than he was last year. He's just working on his specific moves and getting better at it."

Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano cited Long versus Wake as the type of mutually beneficial battle that makes teams more competitive against real opponents.

"Playing against Jake Long every day, and Jake getting to block a guy like Cameron, this makes us a little bit better each and every day out here," Sparano said. "When you get to the game and you're playing against whoever that left tackle is, you're going to feel like you've played against a pretty darn good one in practice."

Two professional football teams can't get much farther apart than Vancouver and South Florida, and no one in their right mind can expect a 23-sack season, but it appears Wake is starting to feel at home in the NFL.

"This year is a little different," Wake said. "I'm more comfortable. I've been here for a year and half now. I know the city. I know the routine. I know the coaching staff. It's just one of those things where you get in a comfort zone and go out and play defense."