Starks And Soliai Stabilize Defensive Front Four

Posted Aug 13, 2012

Much has been made about the schematic changes being made to the Miami Dolphins defense by new defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle, but Paul Soliai and Randy Starks remain the stabilizing forces up front.

The two big men occupying the defensive tackle spots in Coyle’s base 4-3 have been steadily developing into one of the more formidable duos in the NFL. Even though Soliai did most of his damage at nose tackle for Miami when they were in the 3-4, his familiarity with Starks and the way they play together is something that isn’t lost on Starks.

“This is my fifth year with him and he kind of knows what I’m thinking and I know what he’s thinking,” said Starks, who made the Pro Bowl in 2010 with the Dolphins and has racked up 17.5 sacks in his four seasons in Miami. “So it limits the communication we have to do during a game so the opposing offenses don’t know what we’re doing.”

Soliai’s future with the team after being one of just two remaining players from the 2007 draft class (punter Brandon Fields is the other) was in question for a little while after a new coaching regime took over. But his chemistry with Starks is one of the things that he feels might have helped keep him in an aqua and orange jersey.

“Randy and I have got the entire playbook down and just playing with him, I know if I’m running a stunt over here I know Randy’s going to be right behind me,” Soliai said. “We know each other’s assignment really well so we can basically play left and right. When we came in for the offseason conditioning we both committed to each other and said to each other, ‘Let’s be the men of this defense, me and you. Let’s take charge.’ And not only just me and him, but we wanted to help our whole defensive line just make a name for ourselves.”

Last season the two imposing tackles combined for 61 tackles (48 solo) and helped the Dolphins finish the season as the No. 3 run defense in the entire league. They allowed just 95.6 yards per game on the ground.

This is a new coaching staff pretty much from top to bottom, with defensive line coach Kacy Rogers being one of the few holdovers from the previous regime. The fact that Soliai and Starks have stuck with the first unit speaks volumes.

“Those guys are physical guys, they’re strong and can hold the point of attack and keep they’re pads flat,” Head Coach Joe Philbin said. “The thing that they’ve also shown an ability to do is not just take up space, but also get off a block and make a play. You know, again we need to see probably more of it from both those guys and I’m looking forward to seeing it this week in Carolina.”
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