Dolphin Shout Miami Dolphins Fan Question - "Defensive Scheme" from Barry

Today we have another question from our man in London: Barry West. This was a tough one, so thanks for making me think a little bit more Barry. Here it is:

Hi Paul,
What scheme do you think Mike Nolan is going to run this season, bearing in mind our personnel?

Without a true NT will we see a hybrid scheme with Randy Starks at NT, and then Paul Soliai in when operating a more standard 3-4?

My Answer

First, let me say that I don't expect Paul Soliai to play a whole lot this season. Soliai is a good player, but I think that Starks is an even better player.

The only time I see Soliai in is when Miami is running the standard 3-4 like you kind of said, but Starks will probably still get more time in the standard. I believe that Miami is going to try and use Starks as much as possible at Nose Tackle to see if he is capable enough at the position because it is really hard to find talent at the Nose Tackle position.

To me, Starks (305 pounds) seems to be the better decision because he is smaller than Soliai (355 pounds). I know it sounds weird to think that smaller is better for a defensive lineman, but it can be.

Starks is obviously going to be faster than Soliai, and he can use his speed to his advantage. Most centers in the NFL are about Starks size. So, while bigger Nose Tackles like Paul Soliai would be unable to quickly pass a center, Starks has a better chance of being able to. I'm not saying that Starks is a small man compared to you and me, because he is still huge. He just isn't as big as other NFL Nose Tackles.

As for when Miami runs the hybrid scheme and brings a linebacker down to the line, expect Starks to be in. That is because he will no longer be at the nose of the defensive line.

Normally in a 4-3 you have two tackles. One is bigger like Soliai, and his primary focus is to stop the run and take on two blockers to leave an opening for one of the linebackers. The other is usually smaller and around Starks size. His main goal is similar to the others, except he needs to try and rush the quarterback during a pass play.

The great part about having Starks in as the player in the bigger tackle spot is that he can also rush the quarterback. Normally the big guy wouldn't try and rush the quarterback, but with Starks being smaller he is able to. Now, instead of having one tackle who is a threat to the quarterback, you have two tackles threatening him.

The only problem with two smaller tackles is that the linebacker has a harder time getting to the quarterback. But, that shouldn't be too much of a problem because Starks is great at getting to the quarterback himself.

So, in a nutshell your answer is this. Starks will definitely be in during the hybrid scheme, and he should be in for the majority of the traditional scheme. Soliai is good, but Starks is better and he has the potential to become a very good Nose Tackle.

Thanks for your question Barry, and keep them coming everyone. I enjoy difficult ones like those. My email for your questions is

Also, let me say this. As much as I try to be completely accurate about formations and such, I sometimes mess up something or describe a position wrong. If I do please either email me or leave a comment letting me know.

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