As the Colts look to face Miami this week in Indianapolis, one of the primary matchups that may decide the result of the game will be the Dolphins’ left defensive end Cameron Wake versus the Colts’ right tackle Winston Justice.
Although Justice had a down game last week, allowing six hurries and one hit, he’s had a very good year thus far in pass protection. Before the Week 8 pass protection debacle against Tennessee, Justice had just five hurries on the year, and no hits or sacks.
While Justice has been very good this year, this week he faces an opponent unlike one he’s faced this week: Cameron Wake.
Wake has been dominant this year, easily the most dominant pass rusher for the year.
He easily has the highest amount of quarterback pressures in the league with 27 hurries, 11 hits, and 10 sacks after playing just seven games. The move to 4-3 defensive end has suited Wake, and it’s shown up this year. ProFootballFocus has given Wake an overall grade of +30.0 after seven weeks, a grade that trails only behind Von Miller and J.J. Watt for the highest grade of any position in the league. The vast majority of that grade comes from pass rushing, where Wake has made his mark. He’s not particularly good against the run (not bad though either), so that should be a moot point against Justice, who’s been mediocre at best.
The real battle will come in pass rush.
Wake moves around a decent amount, but 90% of his pass rushes still come from that left side. The problem isn’t an inability to predict where he’ll be, the problem is being able to hold him off once he starts coming after the quarterback.
Wake has a decent outside speed rush, but it isn’t something he goes too on every play, like we often see Mathis and Freeney doing. But, when he picks his spots, it can be very effective, as it was in this sack against the Jets this past week (about 1:50). When Wake had his six sacks in Week 6 against Arizona, five of them were an outside move, three or four of which were speed rushes.
Wake also uses his hands well, to beat of the tackle’s punches or to make a little swim move here and there. Wake also does a little dip inside that I saw be effective several times against the Jets.
But, the most important factor that Wake has in pass rushing is his tenacity.
Wake never stops on a play, always keeps fighting the offensive lineman, scrapping to get to the quarterback. These types of players are dangerous, especially against the Colts, because it’s likely that eventually in the play, someone on the offensive line will allow some pressure to Andrew Luck. If he’s not careful, Wake could be right there, ready to shed the block and take Luck down.
Wake’s game against the Jets wasn’t his best, and Justice’s recent performance against the Titans was his worst of the season. Both players will be looking to bounce back from a poor week to reestablish why they’ve been at the top of their class this season.
Whoever wins the matchup may decide who wins the game.