« Previous Post
nice read imohttp://blogs.sun-sentinel.com/sports_fo ... moeba.html
Miami Dolphins: Ryan Baker is “The Amoeba”
by: Mike Berardino November 6th, 2010 | 2:47 PM
Tony Sparano loves grinders.
Oh, sure, the Miami Dolphins coach is appreciative of those with great natural talent. Knows he needs them to put together a winning product at the highest level of football on the planet.
However, perhaps in a nod to his own self-made background, you can just tell when Sparano has taken a particular liking to a player.
Patrick Cobbs had that kind of impact on him in 2008, Sparano’s first year with the Dolphins. Last year it seemed to be Nate Garner who really grew on the no-nonsense coach. Lousaka Polite, too.
This year? I’m getting a strong sense that breakthrough grinder is Ryan Baker, a.k.a. “The Amoeba.
The second-year defensive lineman from Purdue has been active for the past six games, and each week his play count rises a little bit more. Not coincidentally, so does Sparano’s trust in him.
“He’s an amoeba,” Sparano said this week, chuckling a bit when I asked him about Baker’s versatility. “He’s got no bones in his body and kind of slinks around out there a little bit and bounces off of blocks and does all those things.”
Hard to block an amoeba, right?
“I believe that’s a one-celled [organism],” Sparano said.
Last Sunday at Cincinnati, Baker saw a season-high 24 plays of action in all, 15 on base defense and another nine on kickoff returns and placekicks. According to the data at Pro Football Focus, it was Baker’s most effective game of the year in terms of beating blocks and causing havoc.
On the Bengals’ final drive, it was Baker, playing left end for a couple of snaps, who leaped up and batted down Carson Palmer’s second-down pass from the Miami 37. Somehow Baker’s work didn’t show up in the final stats, but the Dolphins’ PR staff is lobbying to make sure Baker receives proper credit.
From his own coach, Baker has already built up plenty of equity. Look for him to remain in the defensive line rotation Kacy Rodgers and Sparano like to keep rolling, especially in light of the season-ending injury to first-rounder Jared Odrick; Odrick’s injury is what brought Baker off the practice squad this year after he saw time in a handful of late-season games in 2009.
At Cincinnati, Baker’s 15 snaps of defense were split almost evenly between right end, nose tackle and left end. He’s also the left wing on Dan Carpenter’s numerous placekicking opportunities, replacing Lydon Murtha the past two games after Murtha made a couple of bad mistakes against New England and Green Bay.
“He’s kind of in the right place at the right time,” Sparano said of Baker. “He’s the guy that comes around on the twist when the quarterback steps out and he kind of gets his hands on the quarterback. His plays are valuable, but I’ll tell you what I love about this guy. We’re talking about guys [being] satisfied, not satisfied with how many touchdowns, any of those things and this guy’s dying to go back there on kickoff return and be in the wedge. That’s what he wants to do.”
Sparano shook his head in admiration.
“Now, whatever job you give to Ryan Baker, he’s going to do it 200 percent,” the coach continued. “You know, ‘This is what I got out of this guy.’ That’s pretty comforting. It’s just like knowing if I get down there in whatever the area is, I got this kicker [Dan Carpenter] over there that has a good chance to do it or this fullback [Lousaka Polite] that does it exactly the way you want him to do it.
“That’s pretty important in that role, and that role is critical because [Baker] is not out there getting lathered up. He’s got to go in, take two plays and come off.”
As for the left-wing work Baker has been doing — and Carpenter is 10 for 10 with the 300-pound Amoeba in the role — Sparano appreciates that just as much as the base-defense snaps.
Baker is typically asked to block/occupy/delay as many as three rushers at a time. It’s pretty much an impossible task, like holding back a flashflood, and he admits it’s almost a given he will end up on his backside at the end of each play. Ideally, this happens just after Carpenter’s kick has safely launched.
Tony McDaniel, another Sparano favorite, has the same job on the right side.
“Die a slow death,’ Baker said. “That’s what you’re trying to do in that role.”
And, of course, the Dolphins know all too well (thanks to Patrick Chung victimizing Murtha in Week 4) how important that wingman’s role is.
“That’s already hurt us,” Sparano said. “It’s a really tough job. I can recall a situation when I was in Dallas. We ended up playing the Redskins and we drive the ball down in a two-minute situation and we have a field goal left and the game is tied at the time and we have a field goal and we’re going to kick it with two seconds left on the clock … to win the game. God rest his soul, Sean Taylor blocks the thing. Comes right in there and blocks it, same kind of scenario [as Chung's block].
“Two guys ran over the guy at the wing out there. [Taylor] slinks his body through there like he does so good and the guy ends up blocking it, picking it up and running it back. That tells you when you put somebody over there and they’re in that role, you need to be able to count on them in that role. That’s an important role. It’s kind of like the snapper. Nobody knows about it until all of a sudden something goes wrong.”
With the Dolphins’ Amoeba engulfing new challenges each week, things keep going right in the hidden parts of the game.