Starks Named AFC Defensive Player Of The Week

Posted Oct 10, 2012

Starks becomes first defensive tackle in team history to win weekly NFL honor.

Randy Starks winning AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his performance at Cincinnati last Sunday is not that surprising. What is surprising is that he is the first Miami Dolphins defensive player to earn the award since Jason Taylor in Week 11 of the 2006 season.

Another revelation is that Starks is the first defensive tackle in franchise history to win the honor, considering his predecessors include Tim Bowens, Daryl Gardener and Bob Baumhower. The award didn’t exist back in the early 1970s when Manny Fernandez was anchoring the No Name Defense.

“It means a lot to me and it feels really good, but it feels better to get a win as a team,” Starks said. “I think we all feel like we’re in a zone as a defense and as an offense so we’re just trying to keep the pressure on it’s a group effort. I’ve always known I can make plays but I can’t do it without my teammates.”

But if there is one person who is not surprised at the kind of season Starks is putting together it’s Taylor, who along with Zach Thomas will officially become members of the Dolphins Honor Roll at halftime of Sunday’s game against the St. Louis Rams. They played mostly in a 4-3 defense early on so Taylor remembers how important the defensive tackles were to the success of the defense.

In Taylor’s last career game last season at home against the New York Jets, Starks had two interceptions of Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez and one sack. That’s when Starks first showcased his ball skills.

“Randy Starks is probably playing the best defensive tackle in the league as we speak,” Taylor said. “Starks and (defensive tackle) Paul Soliai are just playing amazing right now.”

Starks had three tackles, two passes defenses, an interception, a quarterback hit and a half of a sack in Miami’s 17-13 win over the Bengals. His impressive pick of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton on Cincinnati’s first drive of the second half set up Miami’s offense at the Cincinnati 36. Three plays later running back Reggie Bush finished off a 13-yard touchdown run to give the Dolphins a 14-6 lead.

Bush won AFC Offensive Player of the Week after his 172-yard, two-touchdown effort in Week 2 against the Oakland Raiders. One of his key blockers, left guard Richie Incognito, goes against Starks every day in practice and he wondered why it took so long for him to earn some national recognition.

“I’m not surprised at all by it,” Incognito said. “He’s a talented guy and he’d been playing in a 3-4 and was causing problems so I knew once they moved him down to a three technique he’d be a load to handle. He’s a big, physical guy and he’s quick and athletic and he’s a smart football player. He knows what’s going on, so it’s really challenging to get him blocked.”

The head coach of this week’s opponent, Jeff Fisher, drafted Starks in the third round back in 2004 and knew then he had the potential to be an impact player in the NFL. He lost him to the Dolphins in free agency prior to the 2008 season.

“We thought Randy had a great deal of potential. We drafted him fairly high and Randy did a nice job for us,” said Fisher during his conference call with the local media. “He knew (if) he continued to work that he was going to be a good football player. We weren’t able to keep him there in free agency and he’s played very, very well. I was talking with (offensive coordinator) Coach (Brian) Schottenheimer about him last night and Brian says, ‘It seems like every time they play the Dolphins, Randy makes a big play in the ball game, whether it’s an interception, or a sack, or a caused fumble.’ I’m happy to see him playing so well.”

Starks’ performance at Cincinnati came one week after defensive end Cameron Wake compiled a career-high 4.5 sacks in an overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Cornerback Sean Smith had two interceptions in that game, proving this defense is only getting stronger.

Second-year center Mike Pouncey thinks Starks has a good chance of making it back to Hawaii for his second Pro Bowl in three years, and Soliai appreciates having him lining up next to him. Starks already has 3.5 sacks this season, second most on the team behind Wake’s 5.5, and his leaping ability and athleticism are two things he takes pride in.

“My idol growing up was Deion Sanders so I always thought I was a defensive back but I didn’t have the body for it,” Starks said. “I just liked his swag and everybody wanted to be Deion growing up. I’ve got a good vertical leap and I can dunk a basketball.”

That means Rams quarterback Sam Bradford is going to want to avoid throwing the ball too low this Sunday.
Game Pass: Miami Dolphins