One way or another the Tennessee Titans seem to bring out the best in Cameron Wake.
The veteran outside linebacker was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week on Wednesday for his performance in his Titans’ debut, Sunday’s 43-13 victory at Cleveland.
Wake had two and a half sacks, including one for a safety, one quarterback pressure and three tackles. The sack total led the NFL on opening weekend. Three others, including Cleveland’s Myles Garrett, has two each.
It was the fourth time in his career Wake has earned the honor.
Before this week, the last time was Week 6 in 2016 – against the Titans. In that one he had four sacks, four tackles and two forced fumbles for the Miami Dolphins, who whipped Tennessee 38-10 at Nissan Stadium. Quarterback Marcus Mariota was injured in that contest.
“I didn’t realize that until (a member of the public relations staff) said it,” Wake said. “It is kind of an interesting coincidence.
“… It’s always a big deal, but I think … it really shouldn’t be ‘Player of the Week.’ It should be more ‘Team of the Week.’ … It was everybody doing their job. I just happened to be doing my job at the same time.”
Wake’s job description has been clear from the moment the Titans signed him a three-year, $23 million contract early in free agency. It is to rush the quarterback.
His 98 sacks in his 10 years with Miami (2009-18) were tied for the most in the NFL over that span. He had more than 10 in half of those seasons, including 10 ½ as recently as 2017.
“Every play I think I’m going to get a sack – every single play,” Wake said. “Because if you go out there with any other mentality, that will be the play that you’re taking it easy or kind of loafing and that’s the play where the team needed you or the quarterback is holding the ball or whatever it may be.
“You have to have a very short memory and you have to be stubborn, that ‘Hey, I don’t care what the situation is. I’m going to give it my all and hopefully everything goes right.”
Thus far, things have gone pretty much exactly as planned.
Coaches and training staff limited the 37-year-old’s work during training camp and the preseason and plan to continue to do so throughout the regular season, both in preparation during the week and on game days. The idea is to minimize wear and tear in his 11NFL season (he also played two seasons in the Canadian Football League) and to maximize his impact when he is on the field.
Against the Browns, he played just 23 of 71 possible snaps on defense. Yet it was the ninth time in his career he had more than two sacks in game, the first since Oct. 22, 2017.
“There’s going to be times that he’s limited at practice,” coach Mike Vrabel said. “… That’s OK. There’s a plan to get him ready for the games to perform on Sunday.
“I think it’s a big deal (to be named Defensive Player of the Week). It was a really good performance [at Cleveland]. It helped us.”
In addition to the times he won it for and against the Titans, Wake also was AFC Defensive Player of the Week in Week 1 back in 2014. He finished that season with 11 ½ sacks, tied for the third highest total of his career, and had at least one sack in eight of 16 games. The first time he won it was Week 9 of 2013.
“I get a lot of the praise or a lot of the recognition, but the reality is I probably had the easier job,” he said. “Covering those receivers and making (the quarterback) pump-fake or hold the ball longer than he wanted to, that was the tough job [against the Browns]. So it should be ‘Defensive Team of the Week’ and the (other) guys should get some recognition as well.”