|Paul Soliai (96) and Randy Starks (94). (Photo: MiamiDolphins.com)|
Soliai, a run-stuffer at 340 pounds, made just 29 tackles a season ago, but eight went for a loss. What Soliai brings to the Dolphins will be hard to measure statistically, but he's a tough guy to block in the middle. Soliai will likely give the Dolphins this season much of what he's given them over his six-year career, push in the middle to free up linebackers to make plays.
Soliai has played in each of Miami's 16 games in three straight seasons and recorded a career-high eight stuffs in 2012. Soliai finished the season with one and a half sacks despite limited playing time in obvious passing situations. Soliai also assisted on a career-high 11 tackles in 2012 and recovered a fumble in Miami's 30-9 win over the New York Jets on October 28th.
A late addition to the Pro Bowl last season, Randy Starks is coming off of a career-year and really excelled moving from a 3-4 defensive end to a 4-3 defensive tackle. In the first season under defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle, Starks was one of the Dolphins' biggest play-makers. And with his 305-pound frame, literally.
While helping Soliai clog the middle for much of the season, Starks was also third on the team with 4.5 sacks and was the only player not a defensive back to record an interception.
Like Soliai over the past three seasons, Starks has also managed to stay healthy, which is a great sign for Miami's defensive interior. Since joining the Dolphins in 2008, Starks has not missed a single game. He's also recorded at least three sacks in each of his five seasons with Miami.
While there will be a number of concerns for the Dolphins' defense heading into 2013, the defensive front should not be one of them. The interior combination of Soliai and Starks has been durable and strong in the middle while anchoring a run defense that spent much of the season near the top of the NFL. In 16 games last season, only twice did Miami allow a 100-yard rusher and for the Dolphins to make a playoff push, that will need to continue to hold true. But with Soliai and Starks in the middle, there is no reason that it shouldn't.
Mike Ferguson is a staff writer at Dolphin Shout and the founder and editor of Outside the Redzone. Like Outside the Redzone on Facebook!