DAVIE, Fla. -- Miami Dolphins rookie right tackle Ja'Wuan James has reason to cringe before every training camp practice. His daily assignment: Try to keep Dolphins Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake off quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
It's a brutal assignment for any offensive tackle. But that is especially the case for James, who is going through his first NFL training camp as Miami's No. 19 overall pick this past May. The Dolphins are putting James to the test right away by plugging him into the starting lineup and having him face Wake in every practice.
Wake, as expected, is winning most of those early battles. But James and the Dolphins see the long-term benefits to the rookie's early struggles against Wake.
"I love it because I’m a competitor," James said of his battles with the veteran defensive end. “He’s a great player and he’s going to get me better. As long as I keep going as hard as I can against him, these constant reps we have, it’s going to get me ready for what I’m going to see in the season.”
Things got particularly one-sided on Saturday. Wake batted a pass and got past James to sack Tannehill in one team session. Later that practice, Wake blew up James with a bull rush in one-on-one drills to complete a tough day for the rookie. Wake also beat James for another Tannehill sack on Sunday.
The goal is to get James as ready as possible for opposing defensive ends he will face in the regular season.
“He practices hard,” Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said of Wake. “I think the one thing I really appreciate about Cam Wake is -- obviously you want the performance and production on game day -- but he does a great job in practice.”
Wake is 32-years old, which is a full decade older than James (22). Wake has three Pro Bowls on his résumé and one of the top pass-rushers in the AFC.
It shows good leadership on Wake’s behalf to give James a strong look in practice daily and pull the rookie to the side afterwards to provide occasional words of wisdom.
“After practice he’ll be like, ‘Hey, I’ve got your hands up here, you need to do this here,’” James said of Wake. “Or I’ll ask him something. But he does a good job of schooling me, trying to teach me the right thing. But when it’s in between the lines we’re going at it.”