New England Patriots right tackle LaAdrian Waddle was thrust into the starting line-up in week 3 against the Houston Texans and had to defend the likes of Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus, and J.J. Watt. He was put back in the starting line-up halfway through week 8’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers against Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.
Those are probably the four best pass rushes that the Patriots are going to face in 2017 and Waddle stepped in for Marcus Cannon each time (is Cannon playing hookie?) and he’s done a pretty good job.
And his job won’t get any easier this week as he’ll square off against Miami Dolphins pass rusher Cameron Wake.
“Cam Wake...I mean, other than Jason Taylor, I don’t think anybody’s given us more problems than he has,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said about their upcoming opponent’s pass rush. “He’s a very hard guy to block, he’s smart, he’s really instinctive, does a good job of recognizing plays, he’s got good quickness, good speed, good power. And, again, he’s a nifty, crafty kind of guy that knows how to play and can anticipate plays. He’s a hard guy to block. He’s very disruptive. He’s been a big problem for us through the years.”
Wake has 9.5 sacks against the Patriots since he entered the league in 2009, the fifth most by a New England opponent since Belichick was named head coach in 2000. He has the 6th-most career sacks by any active player in the NFL.
Wake plays “exclusively” against right tackles and has “the second highest pass-rush productivity rating among edge defenders with a rating of 15.1,” according to Pro Football Focus. The 35-year-old Wake is still producing at an extremely high level.
“He’s having another good year,” Belichick said. “He’s on the field in a lot of situations. Not just third down – he’s out there on every down. He plays the run well, is instinctive, runs the edge, can counter, has got some power, but he's played quite a bit. It’s not just third down. He does a good job on all three downs.”
Wake has played 59% of the Dolphins defensive snaps this year, leading Miami’s pass rush. He leads a four-man pass rush with Andre Branch (56%), Charles Harris (50%), and William Hayes (43%). Wake has 7 sacks and 1 defensive stop; Branch has 3 sacks and 5 defensive stops; Harris has 1 sack and 1 defensive stop; and Hayes has 1 sack and 8 defensive stops.
Whether Waddle has to block Wake or one of the other players in the rotation, he’s going to have his hands full on Sunday. If Waddle can perform at the same level against the Dolphins as he’s played over the past two weeks, then Tom Brady should be fine and the Patriots offense should keep playing at a high level.