Paul Soliai is entering his sixth season in the NFL. All with the Miami Dolphins. The last two have seen him as the starting nose tackle for the (then) 3-4 defense. New defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle is from the Cincinnati Bengals organization so he has learned under guys like Dick LeBeau, Mike Zimmer, and Marvin Lewis. That means more of a 4-3 base defense. These are guys that utilize the nose tackles as the anchors for the run defense.
It was rumored that the defensive change would lead Miami to allow Soliai to walk this past off-season as a free agent (2011 Soliai was Franchise tagged). Even his agent David Canter was vocal in assuming that one of the several other teams interested in his client would be the one to land him. Luckily (in my opinion anyway) for the ‘Phins phaithful the organization did re-up with Soliai.
Soliai’s career is in an upturn. Improvements have been made every season, culminating in his first Pro Bowl game in 2011. The Dolphins rush-defense was #3 overall vs the run, yielding just 3.7 yards per carry. Against runs up the middle Miami was #12. Their success vs the run started with the strong play of Soliai. In the new defense he can play with his fellow nose tackle (likely Randy Starks and Tony McDaniel) and attack as 2-gap players (Coyle could have flexibility here). This will allow linebackers like Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett to run free and make plays. The last time we saw a similar defense in Miami was the Dave Wannstedt era. Remember when Tim Bowens and Darryl Gardiner were occupying would-be blockers and allowing Zach Thomas and Robert Jones to roam and make plays? Well the 2012 Dolphins are looking for similar results.
Soliai has just 2 career sacks, but he is very legit and imposes his physicality on would-be blockers. He is a major asset to the rush-defense. Not only will the linebackers benefit from Soliai’s strong play, but the defensive ends like Cameron Wake are sure to benefit from Soliai’s strong play too. Fellow nose tackles Starks and McDaniel are also beasts, and should be able to work with Soliai to wreak havoc on offensive lines throughout 2012.
Right out of the gate in 2012 the ‘Phins defense will have the likes of Arian Foster (Houston Texans) Darren McFadden et all (Oakland Raiders) and the run-heavy New York Jets in games 1,2,3. Right away we see the need for Soliai to be Soliai. He is their best chance to slow down those rushing attacks.
Soliai is a massive man. 6’4″ 350. Wide body, huge in every area. He also has a quick first step. He was great in the 3-4, and should be at least that good (honestly, if not better) working in the 4-3 defense.
In a season that already has its share of question marks, the front-7 should not be one of them. Paul Soliai should prove to be a great asset for the 2012 Miami Dolphins.
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