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The reasons the Starks move is a gamble

We all know the Dolphins made the decision to move Randy Starks from defensive end to nose tackle the first night of the draft.

It is a fascinating approach to solving the team's questions at nose tackle.

But it is a gamble and one that just as easily might not have been necessary.

You will recall the Dolphins traded down from their No. 12 overall spot in the first round to No. 28. The move was brilliant on several levels. It put the Dolphins in position to upgrade the nose tackle spot one way or another and also gave them a chance to add another starter by adding a second-round pick.

The interesting part was that the Dolphins had options. When they traveled from No. 12 to No. 28, the Dolphins had both nose tackle Dan Williams and defensive end Jared Odrick on their radar. If Williams had not been picked by Arizona at No. 26, the Dolphins might well have taken him at No. 28.

In that regard, reports of Miami's interest in Williams were accurate. And in that scenario, Williams would fill the bill at NT and Starks would have simply stayed at defensive end.

But the Dolphins found themselves with no Williams available, so they picked Odrick instead -- knowing that they would soon be asking Starks to make the move to nose tackle. When Jeff Ireland wouldn't say where Odrick would play (inside or outside) the night of the first round, it was because he still had not told Starks that the move was officially being made.

The next day, after Starks had agreed to the change, Ireland announced Odrick would be a defensive end.

And in moving Starks the Dolphins are gambling.

Starks, you see, is coming off a season when he grew into the 3-4 DE position to the point where my friends at ProFootballFocus believe him to be the second-best 3-4 DE in the NFL in 2009. The PFF guys have Starks as the second-best run-defender among 3-4 DEs and the sixth-best pass rusher.

(Quick aside, Kendall Langford is ranked the seventh-best pass rusher and sixth-best run defender. Phillip Merling is rated 15th best overall, with a slightly better showing as a pass-rusher than run-stuffer. Also interesting in the ranking based on film study is that Vonnie Holliday, who the Dolphins cut last offseason, rated higher than either Langford or Merling.)

But I digress. The greater point is Starks offered the Dolphins a pretty good DE option already. Starks was a known quantity at DE.

So what's the gamble?

Obviously the Dolphins must hope Odrick, an unproven quantity, comes in and plays as well or better than Starks at DE while also hoping Starks moves to NT and upgrades that spot. And the team must hope the the combination of both moves upgrades the overall defensive front more than having, say, Starks at end and Paul Soliai or Jason Ferguson or someone else at nose tackle.

It is a calculated move that could eventually adequately fill all the defensive line needs Miami had prior to the draft. But as with everything else that is unproven, it is, well, a gamble the Dolphins have taken.


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Smoke, cocoajoe: When Ferguson returns from his suspension I doubt he'll be immediately ready to return to action. Remember, he is not allowed to practice with the team throughout that 8-week suspension. So he might be rusty and might require some time to get up to speed.

Beyond that, he WILL NOT be asked to immediately take over the starting job again. The starting job belongs to Starks, assuming he's playing well. Ferguson will then become a 15-20 snap guy and valuable backup in case Starks gets hurt.

In other words, Jason Ferguson's days as the starting NT are probably over unless something terribly wrong (injury, under-performance by Starks) is happening.

Tim, first of all, the Dolphins visited with, worked out and interviewed Earl Thomas not once, not twice, but three times before the draft. Three times. That is serious consideration.

Beyond that, the draft was several weeks ago and I have talked to a couple of people since then. They tell me the Dolphins were seriously considering Thomas before the draft.

The fact they didn't draft the guy doesn't mean they weren't considering him.

Anyway, lunchtime folks. See you guys later.

I heard that Reggie Nelson is available for trade. Might be a good option for FS if our currents guys don't work out and we don't go with Otogwe.

Shorter Armando:

Starks moves reeks of desperation; Draft was a Debacle.

I believe we are going to have a very aggressive, athletic and punishing D-line. We have already been told that Miami wants to incorporate some new looks. Moving players around in the D-line will certainly be a part of that.
If you want to keep the look of a base 3-4 defense, then grabbing a guy like Williams or Cody (there were a few) to play the NT position is a necessity. And taking would have been the move. But from what I can gather, Miami will not be sitting back in the 3-4 base. From the players they have gone after I see Miami having a defense that shows a different look at every glance. It looks as if they want to be a Defense with a ton of multiple positional players (The guys they drafted bears that out) and it looks like they will show a ton of looks in every game. Giving QB's fits trying to make correct audibles and keep blocking schemes straight. Never knowing where the pressure may come from.
By having guys like Odrick (who I believe will be a huge star in this league) and Starks (who already has made his bones)... Miami becomes BIG, Athletic and best of all... unpredictable.
Size + Speed + Excellent coaching and scheming = Nightmares for O-Coordinators.
I for one don't think our team has taken a "Gamble" at all. I believe they have made an informed and well thought through decision to create a new style and look on Defense. Knowing the AFC East has Offenses who can be dangerous, I feel Miami has upped the stakes and given those teams some new stuff to think about.
The coolest part of all of this... We did not even talk about all the new stuff in the Offense! I firmly believe our defense will be a tough nut to crack for other teams. No matter what, teams will get bloody trying.

Sounds good to me.

Thanks Mando...makes sense. I know that the end of last year, Furg was hurt and wasn't even sure about coming back for '10. Then came the suspension. I thought he was done for sure but then he got a new contract. Just a head scratcher.



Are there any FA options (or shifting someone else to NT) for NT if Starks doesn't work out?


Call me naive, or a homer, or just plain stupid, but how much better could this offseason have been? Honestly. We didn't mortgage the future for a 1-2 year run. We added superstars, and role players, and a major infusion of youth. Add in that our defense would have been better simply with the addition of Mike Nolan, and I believe the offseason was highly successful.

Noone will argue that Brandon Marshall is a top 5 WR in this league. We lacked a guy who could take pressure off of the other guys on offense, especially Ronnie and Ricky. His addition makes Hartline better, and imagine how many catches Bess will have now? I'd be shocked if it's less than 90. We averaged almost 5 yards a carry the last 2 years, with no respect for our passing game, no stability on the offensive line. We added the depth we needed there. And back to the top 5 WR thing, Brandon Marshall is easily the best run blocker in that group, which also adds to the effectiveness of the run game.

Anyone who watched any of our defense last year would have immediately used the terms slow and plodding. Well, we completely revamped the front 7 of our defense. Moving Starks inside means our down linemen are that much more athletic, much more interchangeable. The 330 lb traditional NT is usually a 2 down player, well not for us. The NT is a 3 down player. Our ILB group was terrible last year. Karlos Dansby is one of the 3 best coverage ILBs in football, and he immediately allows Channing Crowder to focus completely on what he does best, play the run. Tim Dobbins is a great depth pickup. AJ Edds is a great nickel LB, who could be te starter in a few years. Subtracting Gibril Wilson is an upgrade in itself, as is thereturn of Will Allen and the pickup of Nolan Carroll.

I didn't mention the OLB spot, because the JT situation will probaby be the answer to what we could have done differently. I really think Cameron Wake is going to surprise people, and Koa Misi will do everything we need an OLB to do, without being uncomfortable, which JT was. Joey Porter had to go. We added depth with Chris McCoy. Not often brought up is Karlos Dansby and his time at OLB. Their will be times when he lines up outside, with Crowder and Edds on the inside. The beauty of what we have built in such a short time, as I have repeatedy stated, is scheme versatility, and we have the players to do this.

So we had some PR messups. And didn't address the FS spot with a proven player. Also created a hole in the return game. Yet, consider the major weaknesses of our team January 4th, and look at them now, an we had as good an offseason as I think you could have possibly had. 3 Home Runs with Dansby, Nolan, and Marshall. Improved depth, which leads to improved ST play. Improved athleticism and versatility. And a draft class that could lead Ustinov having a potentially devastating defense in a few years. I like it.


Any grapevine update on Pat White (e.g., has he put on any muscle weight, etc.)?

Three DE on the line at once can cause a lot of grief. The Bears and Giants have done this successfully

The question is , what would you rather have , A rookie at NT in dan williams ( who has never played the NT position and had one good year) and no 2nd round pick ( with a hole at SOLB ) or Jarid Odrick , Koi Misi ( starting at the hole at SOLB ) and randy starks playing NT ( a position he played before ). It not even close . Hands down it's the latter of Odrick , Misi and Starks at NT !!

This is no gamble. This is a smart plan !!

I think the bigger gamble would have been to expect Dan Williams to be your NT from day one. Rookies never seem to be able to handle the huge task of being a full time NT in year one. Haloti Ngata, Vince Wilfork, BJ Raji, and Ron Brace couldn't do it.

excellent points boateng & nj.

unless Williams turns out to be an INSTANT stud (improbable at least as far as "instant," i.e., first yr stud goes)


Starks turns out to be WHOLLY inept & a major liability at Nt (and/or demonstrably worse than Soliai) - - HIGHLY unlikely given his track record and skills - -

The move is quite shrewd.

good post bootang, a little long, but good...

NJ Phin Fan... That is my sentiment exactly (as spoken in my post @12:09)...

I believe this was a well thought through decision to move away from a very predictable Base 3-4 set. And get some Size ALONG WITH athletisism on the D-Line.
Nose Tackles are athletic in their way of being athletic... But I believe Miami was looking for something more from the inside positions. More motion, more multiple positional players moving all over the place and more looks for a QB to try and get blocks called on.
And now with a guy like Dansby's experience standing behind it all and calling plays for the D-line and LB's. You can really see a plan to disrupt the QB's thinking and cause a hesitation in what the Offense is trying to do long before they ever get the whole thing rolling. That takes a bunch of pressure off the corners and the Safeties. Disruptive sets also cause mistakes on the O-line... and those are always fatal to a play.

Didn't Starks play NT in a 3-4 in college at Maryland and also on the inside alot on a pretty good defense in Tennessee?

Dot discountthe fact NE is loading back up to have that explosive style of offense again, our first duty is to win the division. NE couldn't handle a highly athletic front 4 in the Super Bowl. Also, the ways you beat the good QB's is by putting pressure right up the middle. The 330 lb NT can't do that consistently. Mike Nolan isn't just a 3-4 guy. I am sure there are all types of front 7 looks he is creating. I could easily see a front 7 that has Wake, Starks, Odrick, and Merling as the down lineman, with Misi and Dansby on the outside, and Crowder in the middle. Just for example. Our defense in 2011 should be nasty.

The gamble is obviously losing a stud DE, which Starks was becoming last year, and move him to a position he has not played extensively before.

The guy was a 4-3 DT in Tennessee. He's never been a starting NT in the NFL.

Hopefully he can make the transition and we don't lose a lot by plugging in Odrick at DE.

Carlito..... Yes... I believe that is what I read in an interview he gave after the move was announced by Ireland. I am uncertain why he moved away from that position, that sort of thing happens all the time in college. I believe one of the main reasons for Jones stock falling in the draft was spoken about in a piece by Darlington last night. He was moved from FS to SS to allow for some CB who was struggling at the CB spot. That is all fine and dandy for that CB... but in the draft, it hurt Jones. I don't remember if Starks's said why he moved.

If the Fins were going to use Starks as a "pure" NT type, I could see the risk, but that isn't their plan...Starks should do just fine in Nolan's scheme and will be moving around..this should work out fine...

Gotta echo the above comments, Williams is no sure fire guarantee at NT. Plus look at the competition at DE? Impressive, ILB and OLB also. I reckon there's no chance both Crowder and Torbor make the 53.

Carlito , starks was a DT at maryland and tenn but has started at NT for miami when fergie was out a couple of years ago. He has plenty of experience playing on the inside ( Dt or nt ). Nolan 's defense will be a little different in that NT will not be lined up straight over the center. The Nt will playing over the shoulder of the center in between the g and c much like a DT. The idea is to use athletic ability and penetration. Both excellent qualities of starks.


I know he played DT at Tennessee and NT when Fergie was out... Anyone with eyes that can read knows that...

I'm 99% sure I read that Maryland ran a 3-4 when Starks was there

FDLP... I believe it would be a loss if it was looked at only in a sense of running a straight up 3-4. Miami has already made several statements that will not likely be the case... I doubt very seriously you will see a straight up, Starks in the Middle, Odrick, Langford set... It will certainly occur some times... but I will wager many of the sets will have 4, 5 and as many as 6 down linemen. All the while re-positioning themselves according to what they are trying to accomplish (Blitz, Run Defense, Etc.)
Starks will undoubtedly still have plenty of shots from outside the guards shoulder. And, Miami will have an option to move him back outside should they not like the results, I feel they will have a good idea by the end of pre-season whether it will be a successful look. But as long as Starks in on the team... we have lost nothing.

Mark in Toronto. You make a good point about Rookies coming in and making a huge difference right away. Raji was the first D lineman picked last year, and he didn't sniff the field until the later part of the season. Odrick has the tools to be a good player, but most rookie lineman don't develop until well into their first seasons, even season two. Linebacker seams like the position where rookies can make an immediate impact. Look for Misi to have a bigger impact right away then Odrick.

Carlito , Maryland did NOT run a 3-4 when starks was there . He was a DT at maryland in the 4-3 which was my point and then i gave you some extra stuff. Next time i'll make sure i won't answer your question when you ask one.

@ bill Ruger, i had made that point about the defense miami will run and what starks position will be in that defense on my post 1:12 pm. Touche ! :)

Any truth to the rumors I'm hearing that Starks actually initiated this move beacause he feels more comfortable on the inside than the outside?

NJ Phin
Your post at 1:12 is on the money. In the past our NT played straight up 0 technique. Starks is used to playing the outside shoulder technique(odd tech) so the only thing that changes is that he has to manuver more traffic.

In all honesty NJ... I was only agreeing with you, Not competing with you... I believe the 3-4 scheme to be a defense which has for the better part been solved. Quick on fly fly adjustments on the line (Manning Style) has made the 3-4 vulnerable. I feel what Miami is doing is a direct result of that. Bootangs25 statement above is very true... a athletic D-line can cause many teams who really on timing and even just plain talent to be disrupted to a point their offense is unable to operate with consistency.

By the way... How are ya Bobbyd12... Long time no talk to?

the plumber is back with all of his tools .

Something that I saw as a possibility with the draft and the addition of Dansby, is a flexibility between a 3-4 and a 4-3. Dansby has the speed and athleticism to play OLB, Misi can play an up OLB or a down DE. Odrick can play in or out on the line, as can Starks. Our set defense can be a 3-4, but without changing personnel we can switch to a 4-3 with Odrick and Starks as tackles, Misi plays the DE and Dansby moves to OLB. If Merling beats out Odrick at DE, I'm not sure how well he could move in and play the DT spot.

NJ... How much do you feel the LB and D-line play effected our Safety play last season? Although I am no Gibril Wilson fan.. I believe he was a bit of a victim of Rookie corners and poor play up from against the run and pass... You have thoughts?

bill ruger . i was also agreing with you, :)

Darryl d . EXACTLY !!

Ask bill , the rookie corners and the shytty LB play had a lot do do with the poor S paly. They had to overcompensate for their flaws but at the same time time , wilson was terrible ( i never wanted him here in the 1st place )and is a SS not a FS.

NY/Darryl... When you say he will need to "maneuver more traffic" are you referring to Double teams? or is that technique charged with more responsibility?

I apreciate any explanation you can give!!

Bill Ruger.
Our safties were the leading tacklers on this team last year. How can any saftey have a chance in pass coverage, when they had to come up in run support so often?

I agree with both of you NJ/Darryl... Reason I ask is all the headspin I am seeing about getting a safety we can be happy with and who will get the job done. Am I out of my mind for believing that one of the three guys we are looking at for the FS position can get the job done... Clemons & Jones are both good draft picks... Culver shows good brains... I just think with good line/LB play... our current players can get it done... Do you believe I am wrong? It just seems to be an endless subject in Miami.

It starts from the d-line. If the line disrupts the other team's offense, then the LBs can make plays allowing the Safeties to make plays too. Anybody can look good at safety with a solid front line.

Bill Ruger.
When I say manuever more traffic, he is just being moved inside more. With a 0 technique, you are head up with the center, the odd tech moves you to the out side shoulder of the man. for instance 1 tech outside shoulder of the center, 3 tech outside shoulder of the guard. Usually in a 1 technique, the nose takes on the double team from the center, and guard in a 3 tech, some times the tackle has other responsibilites, such as a blitzer, or line backer. so the guard plays the DT. one on one more often. In the 1 tech your job is to take on more space so that the linebackers can roam. This should help the safties out as well

Ask bill. rodge is right, it starts with the DL play and trickles down to the DB's. The DL play and the improvements AT LB can help cover the for the miami's present FS's . I don't know whether miami has the answer in Jones or clemmons but the improved front 7 will help.

No I totaly agree with you about the saftey spot. I think that the Fo. relized that saftey wasn't our absolute priority, that we would have better play at saftey if we could solidify the Dline, and linebacker. We have done both. Corner play should be better this year as well. This should help the saftey play as well.

Ask Bill,

Noone was on the FS position leading up to the draft more than myself. Also with my belief Reshad Jones is a SS, you would think that I would be unhapy. However, the S spot is the easiest to compensate for, and certainly not as important as NT or OLB. We had too many holes to fix, and I do not believe the long term solution to FS is on the roster as we speak. As already stated, improved LB play, as well as improved CB play should help make whomever our starting FS is job easier.

It's crucial for Solai and other backup NTs to play well. If not, Starks and the rest of d-line will be exhausted by mid 3rd quarter allowing teams to run out the clock or come from behind. Let's pull it together Mr Solai!!!

I really appreciate all of your responses to my inquiries... I have really had a difficult time trying to justify all of the print about Safeties when it seems common sense that the Line and Line Backers would have a huge effect on that positions ability to play and produce. I really appreciate the info on the "Technique" positions. I have no problem asking when I do not understand something, I have always heard the terminology but just did not completely understand its foundation in the X's AND O'S... I feel a bit more informed..
Thank you Rodge... I can not agree more about "where it all starts"... it is the reason I am so high on this past draft.

New blog.

I hope Solia can "Get it all together" this season also. I like the guy and would hate to see end up on the "Block"... No doubt he will have to ward off some young talent in camp who want his spot on the roster. I read about one kid who was in Mini camp (his name eludes me) who seemed to get some attention from Tony S. I am certain Paul know what time it is for his career in Miami.

ask bill. i'm glad i can help.

If you picked Williams DT you are gambling too, you don't know if he is going to work out no more than Starks or Odrick will work out.... so its all a gamble....... !!!


gamble huh, seems we are taking alot of gambles. not good


What would Miami have done if Odrick went to the Pats? Most news outlets had Odrick as a high possibility for the Pats, seeing as though they lost Seymour, and they like the versatility of Odrick. Did Miami know they'd go corner and if not that would have been a real gamble because I am not sure what player would have represented the best value-need option?

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