Starks Sees Titans As Just Another Opponent

Posted Nov 9, 2012

Veteran defensive tackle no longer holds a grudge.

Four full seasons have passed since Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Randy Starks was allowed to become an unrestricted free agent by the Tennessee Titans. Whatever bad feeling he might have had for the team that drafted him in the third round in 2004 are long gone.

Starks has played more games in a Dolphins jersey (72) than he did for Tennessee (60) and with Jeff Fisher no longer the Titans head coach there aren’t too many familiar faces left. So when he takes the field Sunday at Sun Life Stadium against his former team, the 6-foot-3, 305-pound anchor of Miami’s defensive line will feel rather indifferent.

“I know both of their offensive tackles (Michael Roos and David Stewart) and their safety (Jordan Babineaux) but for the most part their whole team is different,” said Starks, whose only Pro Bowl appearance came with the Dolphins in 2010. “I already played them twice so the chip I had on my shoulder is pretty much gone. I feel like I’ve been more of a Dolphin for my career and I beat them one time so I’m cool.”

Miami reached the halfway point of this season at 4-4 and smack in the middle of the playoff hunt, so Starks is looking at the Titans as just the next opponent in the Dolphins’ path towards achieving their goal. This will be the first of a stretch of four out of six home games so he does not want to let his old team play the role of spoiler.

Starks is second behind defensive end Cameron Wake in sacks with 3.5 and had a key interception in the Week 5 win at Cincinnati. He also has knocked down five passes and racked up 18 tackles (12 solo) while disrupting both the run and the pass with his push up the middle. Second-year center Mike Pouncey faces Starks in practice all the time and has come to appreciate his athleticism.

“Randy’s playing lights out and he’s a guy when you block him in practice you just get frustrated because you never know what he’s going to do,” Pouncey said. “He can beat you with power, he can beat you with speed and he’s doing great for our football team right now. He’s making plays that a lot of defensive linemen don’t make and he’s a big reason why our defense is playing so well right now.”

Last week’s tough 23-20 loss on the road to the Indianapolis Colts snapped Miami’s three-game winning streak and Starks, along with the rest of the defense, is eager to start a new streak Sunday. He knows how important home wins are in the playoff race.

The fact that it is his former team he is facing just adds little extra to the matchup, as well as the prospect of holding speedy Titans running back under 100 yards. Starks is part of a unit that currently owns the longest streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher (22 games).

“That’s a good streak to have and we’ve done a good job but we’re still 4-4 so we can’t let that be a distraction,” Starks said. “We need to hold Johnson in check by keeping everything inside. If you keep him inside he’s not as effective a runner, but once you let him get to the outside, that’s when he’s real dangerous. You can hold him to 10 yards on 10 carries but he can take it 80 yards to the house and mess up your run defense. He’s small, he’s fast and once he hits the second level you’re not going to catch him.”

If Starks, Wake, defensive tackle Paul Soliai and defensive ends Jared Odrick and Olivier Vernon can contain Johnson, then that could lead to a pleasant afternoon for the Dolphins and one ex-Titan.

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