DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — Miami Dolphins defensive line coach Terrell Williams was engaged in conversation on the field following practice Friday when end Cameron Wake came up from behind and playfully draped a large, sweaty arm around his coach’s neck.
Williams smiled and kept talking, but soon decided to pull rank on Wake.
“Get out of here,” Williams barked with a thrust of his shoulders that sent the 263-pound Wake stumbling away.
The coach, a former college nose guard, can clearly still hold his own in the trenches. That’s good, because he’s dealing with more than 4,000 pounds of talent in training camp, sorting out a unit that may be the strength of the team.
Miami’s front four includes three four-time Pro Bowlers — Wake, end Mario Williams and tackle Ndamukong Suh. Others expected to have prominent roles include tackles Earl Mitchell and Jordan Phillips and ends Andre Branch and Jason Jones. Former No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan has received conditional reinstatement following a 15-month suspension, and youngsters Terrence Fede and Chris McCain might also be part of the mix.
Terrell Williams, who is in his fifth year as an NFL coach, said he has never had such depth.
“We’re trying to figure out where all these guys fit in,” he said. “It’s going to be interesting when we start playing preseason games.”
A week into camp, with the first exhibition game still a week away, first-year coach Adam Gase said the depth in the defensive line is already apparent.
“It feels like no matter what group is in there, they’re up the field challenging the offensive line,” Gase said. “I was standing right behind the quarterbacks thinking, `I don’t know how they see.’ Those guys are so long and tall and physical. You’re seeing glimpses of color as far as the receiver, and to complete balls — it’s great work for our quarterbacks, because I don’t know if we’re going to see anybody as long as our defensive linemen.”
The Dolphins figure the front four will have an advantage by rotating linemen throughout a game.
“We know in this league most of the games are won in the fourth quarter,” Terrell Williams said. “If we can score some points and get up on some people, we can roll them in in waves.”
While players compete for roles, they’re also learning a new scheme. Veteran coach Jim Washburn has joined the staff as senior defensive assistant-pass rush specialist, and he is deploying the wide nine package, which he developed and used with considerable success in Detroit.
The scheme is designed to create more favorable pass-rush angles, but Williams said personnel is still the key to success.
“I don’t care if you’re in a 3-4, a wide nine, a 6-2,” Williams said. “Whatever it is, it’s about who is lining up and kicking the guy’s butt in front of him.”
The Dolphins didn’t do that so well last year, when they ranked 21st against the run, 27th in sacks and 28th against the pass.
They then lost ends Olivier Vernon and Derrick Shelby in free agency, but added Mario Williams, Branch and Jones, and Wake has returned after missing the second half of last season with a torn Achilles tendon.
There are question marks regarding all of the Pro Bowlers. Wake is not yet fully healthy, Mario Williams’ play declined in Buffalo last season and Suh wasn’t a big playmaker in his first season with the Dolphins a year ago.
Training camp is a time to start answering the questions.
“The sky is definitely the limit for us,” Mario Williams said. “There is a lot of talent across the board, and the most important thing with talent is you have to have continuity, and we have to learn how to play together and play off of one another.”
NOTES: RB Kenyan Drake pulled up lame at the end of practice. Drake, a third-round pick with a long injury history, hurt his hamstring in June minicamp. … RB Jay Ajayi (knee) returned to practice. … Suh (back) sat out as a precaution, but his injury isn’t considered serious. Also out were WR DeVante Parker (hamstring) and RB Isaiah Pead (hamstring).
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