With injuries to rookie DE Jared Odrick and DE Phillip Merling, the Dolphins were forced to do some shuffling, but the D-line has been stout, consistently putting pressure on the quarterback and helping the defense improve its overall ranking from 22nd in 2009 to sixth.
In training camp, seventh-year veteran DL Randy Starks took reps at nose tackle, despite having a career year in 2009 at defensive end, recording seven sacks and starting all 16 games. But after Odrick's injury, Starks was moved back to his end position.
"It hasn't been too bad," Starks told PFW about the back-and-forth. "Coming into camp, I was practicing nose tackle and I was getting it down, but we had an unfortunate injury, so I'm back at the end. I'm starting to turn the corner at defensive end.
"I'm starting to get back into the flow; my timing is starting to get down. I'm starting to see blocks and plays faster than I was in the beginning going back to (defensive end)," he said.
Starks can relate the adversity he has seen on the field with the position changes to the kids he plans to talk to soon with his new charity. Off the field, Starks has been raising money for the Miami PAL Youth Flag Football leagues. "I got involved with that because I know how after-school programs keep you out of trouble from when I was growing up," he said.
Since spending all of training camp and starting the season opener at the nose, Starks has started every game at right end, but he still takes some snaps at the nose. He has been helped by increased playing time and productivity from D-linemen Paul Soliai and Tony McDaniel, two backups who have entered the rotation because of injuries.
"Paul has stepped his game up this year and has done a very good job at nose, so I don't have to play nose as much," said Starks. "Whenever someone needs a blow, Tony can play inside or out."
Amidst the position changes, Starks has recorded 18 tackles and two sacks. He has also been knocking balls down at the line, totaling three passes defensed already this season, tying his career high. Starks, like the rest of the defense, has benefited by coordinator Mike Nolan's schemes. "It's always something different — it keeps the offense guessing. It's a very aggressive, offensive-minded defense. I like the scheme," Starks said.