While the Miami Dolphins did not select a true nose tackle in the 2010 draft, it appears they didn't need to; they've had their candidate on the roster the whole time.
General manager Jeff Ireland announced during the draft that defensive end Randy Starks will make the transition to nose tackle next season, noting that this is a move that has been considered in-house for quite some time and that Starks was more than willing to make the switch.
"We felt we had one of the best available nose tackles and he was on our own team," Ireland said. "When he was in there he was very good. He has the body type to be a nose. Very powerful."
After joining the Dolphins as a free agent two years ago, Starks was considered as nothing more than a career backup who would be a nice addition for depth along the defensive line.
The former defensive tackle emerged as one of the best 3-4 defensive ends in the league last season, starting all 16 games for Miami at right end and registering 56 tackles and seven sacks.
At 6'3" and 305 lbs, Starks is one of the most underrated defensive lineman in the league. But that perception has begun to change since he's blossomed into a legitimate force as of late. Scouts Inc. listed him as the top 3-4 defensive end in the AFC last season, and they were one of many to recognize his impact for the Dolphins.
That fact that he's been so successful at end raises questions over whether it's a smart idea to move him to a less familiar position. Don't mess with success, right? Well in this case, the Dolphins feel he'll be even more production as a nose tackle and Starks tends to agree.
Over the last two seasons he's played spot-duty at nose and been extremely productive doing so. The reason he didn't do so more was because he was needed at end and with Jason Ferguson on board it allowed Miami to get their best players on the field at the same time.
Now that Ferguson is facing an eight-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy and likely will retire after this season anyway, the Dolphins need Starks to step up to the plate in a different way going forward.
By moving him to the middle, it opens up space for first-round pick Jared Odrick and Philip Merling to compete for playing time opposite Kendall Langford. All three lineman are young and talented, meaning whoever ends up being the odd one out in the starting lineup will rotate in and out with the other two.
That should keep them fresh and competitive all season long. And that can only be a good thing for the Dolphins. Having three young, athletic, and talented defensive ends will make Miami a very difficult to play against; especially with the additions to the linebacker core.
It all hinges on whether Starks can succeed as a nose tackle full-time. He's slightly undersized for what you would prototypically want a nose to be, but so is Ferguson and that's never been an issue over a long and fruitful career.
Starks has the lower body strength, the powerful arms, bull-rushing style, and relentless motor every good nose has. This is a move that's been whispered for over a year but hasn't been acted upon because of how well he's played as an end.
With Odrick's addition, the possibility now becomes reality.
If it works, you'll be looking at the start of an imposing wall along Miami's defensive line.
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