Top 20 Miami Dolphins of 2013: No. 8 Paul Soliai

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins have finally hired a new GM. After nearly three weeks of deliberation and candidates turning down the opportunity, owner Stephen Ross settled on Dennis Hickey. As we wait to see how Miami’s new GM attacks this offseason, let’s continue our look back on the season that was by ranking the team’s top 20 players of 2013. Today, we’ll look at player No. 8, defensive tackle Paul Soliai.

2013 statistics

Tackles: 34
Sack: 1.0
Forced fumbles: 1
Passes defensed: 5

Pro Football Focus breakdown

Position rank: 20 of 69
Run defense rank: 16 of 69
Pass rush rank: 24 of 69
Snaps played: 526
Quarterback hits: 3
Hurries: 9
Stops: 19

Why he’s No. 8

There’s no question that Soliai is one of the league’s stoutest defensive tackles, and he has been for some time. He uses his size and strength to be a disruptive force against the run where offensive lines are often required to occupy him with two blockers. The attention Soliai commands opens up lanes for the second line of defense to make plays on the ball carrier. Miami’s linebacker corps struggled to make the most of those opportunities in 2013, but there’s no telling how much worse the front seven would have been without a force like Soliai in the trenches.

Although his specialty is defending the run, he wasn’t the inept pass rusher some suggest this past season. He ranked in the top half of Pro Football Focus’ pass rushing rankings among interior defensive linemen and produced a sack, three quarterback hits and nine hurries on the year.

Why he’s not higher

While Soliai is a very solid player, he’s a bit limited. He only saw the field for 526 snaps in 2013 which was over 200 less than fellow defensive tackle Randy Starks and over 300 less than Jared Odrick. Both Starks and Odrick have the ability to play at an elite level, but Soliai’s ceiling is a bit lower. Starks and Soliai are both scheduled to hit the open market this offseason where many Dolphins fans assume Soliai will be the one retained.

Starks has accrued more mileage with 10 seasons under his belt compared to Soliai’s seven, but both players are 30-years-old and won’t turn 31 until December. Starks is the far superior pass rusher and actually graded as a better run defender this past season according to Pro Football Focus. Soliai would be cheaper to sign, but don’t assume he should be the choice over his more dominant teammate.

Cody Strahm is a Miami Dolphins contributor for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @CodyJStrahm.

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