Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Top Training Camp Battles #5: Backup Nose Tackle

With the retirement of Jason Ferguson, who was facing a suspension for the first eight games of the 2010 season, the need for a quality backup to starting nose tackle Randy Starks is more important than ever.

The primary backup at this point looks once again to be 2007 fourth-rounder Paul Soliai.

Despite a monstrous frame at 6-foot-4 and 355 pounds, the prototypical nose tackle hasn't established himself as a reliable start to this point.

With his professional career plagued by maturity and conditioning issues, Soliai is just hoping to earn a backup role with the Dolphins at this point.

Soliai's primary competition should come from Ryan Baker, who made the switch from defensive end to nose tackle during his rookie season as an undrafted free agent.

Baker (6-5, 295) js a completely different kind of player than Soliai, but the Dolphins obviously like what they've seen from him by giving him playing time on defense as such a low-profile rookie.

Rounding out the competition will be recently-signed journeyman Montavious Stanley and undrafted rookie Travis Ivey.

Stanley has experience with members of the Dolphins' staff from his time in Dallas, but has been unable to establish himself as a big contributor in four NFL seasons.

Meanwhile, Ivey probably isn't at the point where he is a serious threat to the three other players already mentioned, and is probably just trying to land a spot on the practice squad.

A converted defensive end similar to Jay Ratliff in Dallas, the very talented Starks should get the bulk of playing time at nose tackle.

However, the Dolphins will need a reliable No. 2 man to spell him from time to time and contribute in certain defensive fronts.

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