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AFC East Whispers

Dolphins' Soliai proves valuable fill-in

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By PFW staff

We've been hearing the following whispers from around the AFC East:

• Dolphins NT Paul Soliai picked a good year to have his most productive season, as he will be a free agent. He was not expected to start in 2010, but injuries to Jared Odrick and Phillip Merling forced some shuffling and Soliai started 14 games, recording eight tackles for loss — the most out of any defensive lineman on the team. With Merling possibly moving to the nose next season and Odrick returning healthy, Soliai may have to fight for his starting spot. One team observer called Soliai a "beast" this season for the 'Fins, and they may want to hold on to him.

• The Patriots' defense improved during the season and led the NFL in takeaways, but it never improved in getting off the field. New England finished last in the league in third-down defense, and one daily team observer expects it spent time during the bye week working on that. A young secondary and ineffective pass rush on third down are to blame. When teams throw the ball on third down against the Patriots, they get the first down 47.1 percent of the time. The Pats also recorded just eight sacks on third down this season.

• Even if the Bills decide to keep Ryan Fitzpatrick as their starter, expect the team to be in the market for a quarterback this offseason. Backup Brian Brohm never progressed the way the team was hoping, and he struggled mightily in his only game action of the year, throwing three interceptions against the Jets' backups in Week 17. Levi Brown, a rookie in 2010, is still considered a long-term project and is unlikely to be the team's No. 2 QB next season.

• Jets QB Mark Sanchez had an up-and-down season in 2010, but he said that going through a wide range of experiences has made him and his teammates much more comfortable in rough situations. "Once you get that experience, it's just one other situation you've done," Sanchez said. "We're definitely in a good place as an offense.  We know how to handle it."

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