The Miami Dolphins have a surplus.
This year’s defensive line is deep, a little too deep considering they have some weaknesses in other areas—most notably tight end and free safety. Alongside one of the largest men I’ve ever seen in nose tackle Paul Soliai are starting defensive ends Kendall Langford and Randy Starks.
According to Pro Football Focus, Langford and Starks graded out as the league’s fifth and 10th best 3-4 defensive ends in 2010, respectively. Reserve Tony McDaniel wasn’t far behind at 13th.
Having three upper-echelon players relegated to two spots is reasonable. Depth up front is important, but we’re not done here.
Second-year end Jared Odrick, last year’s first-round pick, has impressed in camp and into the preseason. Like Starks and Langford, Odrick is capable of playing on early downs and in pass-rushing situations. Unlike those two, he hasn’t had the opportunity to prove himself in lengthy game action after a foot injury ended his rookie season steps after it began. Further adding to his versatility is his ability to play inside with four-down linemen, as he did at Penn State.
Tony Sparano wants to see exactly what he has in Odrick and it’s no secret as to why he started him over Starks in last week’s exhibition contest against the Panthers.
“Jared is a guy I need to see against some good people out there,” coach Sparano said after Monday’s practice. "I think getting him up there when you’re going ones on ones has been a positive thing.”
If Odrick continues to impress, it gives the team four effective players who can play two spots.
Wait, we’re not done.
Throw Phillip Merling into the equation, and it’s like trying to squeeze Rex Ryan into some skinny jeans. There’s just too much going on there.
Now, obviously GM Jeff Ireland has to look to the future too. Merling and Langford are unrestricted free agents after this season, McDaniel was re-signed this summer, Starks has two years left on his deal and Odrick is locked down through 2014.
Expect one of these ends to be traded before the season, with Merling as the most logical choice. No point in losing him for nothing after a year of riding the bench.
The Dolphins' surplus on the defensive line is irrefutably positive, but a waste unless management proceeds with wisdom and injects this roster with help where it needs it.