Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Paul Soliai named to Pro Bowl; Dolphins meet with Janoris Jenkins

Much like Dolphins' defensive lineman Randy Starks was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2010—a year after he was truly deserving—nose tackle Paul Soliai has been added to the AFC's Pro Bowl roster, replacing either the Ravens' Haloti Ngata.

Soliai joins offensive tackle Jake Long and wide receiver Brandon Marshall as the Dolphins' third Pro Bowl selection of the 2011 season, although Long has since dropped out due to multiple injuries suffered during the regular season.

Originally a fourth-round pick out of Utah in 2007, Soliai spent a few years in the dog house battling weight and maturity issues before emerging as an elite nose tackle in 2010 with 39 tackles and two sacks while playing stellar run defense as the anchor of the Dolphins' 3-4 defense.

Coming off a breakout season and heading for unrestricted free agency, the Dolphins opted against signing Soliai to a long-term deal in 2011 and instead placed the franchise tag on him, guaranteeing him a salary of more than $12 million this past season.

While Soliai didn't perform badly in 2011, his tackle numbers dropped and he fell to Pro Football Focus' 10th-ranked 3-4 nose tackle and 24th overall defensive tackle (both schemes) against the run.

Soliai earned an overall positive grade, but I'd hardly call him Pro Bowl-worthy this season. Just as with Starks, this seems to be something of a "makeup" selection for his play the season before when he was the No. 4 nose tackle in the game and No. 10 overall defensive tackle.

Nevertheless, a Pro Bowl selection is only going to drive up the impending 28-year-old free agent's market value even more. Despite what you might call a "down year" in 2011, effective 355-pound nose tackles don't grow on trees and are highly coveted in a league where the 3-4 is as prevalent as it is today.

Aside from money, the biggest factor that could determine Miami's interest in re-signing Soliai is their defensive scheme. Despite running the 3-4 scheme for the past four years and new head coach Joe Philbin coming from a 3-4 team himself, reports this week have the Dolphins potentially shifting back to the 4-3 scheme.

Such a move would alleviate the need for a high-priced nose tackle like Soliai, as the 4-3 scheme would have current defensive ends Randy Starks, Kendall Langford, Jared Odrick, Tony McDaniel, and Phillip Merling moving inside and pass rushers like Cameron Wake moving to defensive end.


Dolphins interview potential first-round CB Janoris Jenkins at Senior Bowl

I've already discussed a few of the players that have met with Dolphins at this week's Senior Bowl festivities, but beat writer Ben Volin and former Gators' reporter passes along news that the Dolphins interviewed former Florida cornerback Janoris Jenkins on Monday.

A four-star recruit from Pahokee, Fla., Jenkins was a freshman All-American for the Gators in 2008 as well as a first-team All-SEC selection as a junior in 2010. Jenkins totaled 121 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles, eight interceptions and 25 pass deflections in three years in Gainesville before being kicked off the team prior to the 2011 season after two arrests for marijuana possession in a three-month span.

Jenkins, who was also arrested in 2009 for fighting and resisting arrest at a Gainesville bar, transferred to Division II North Alabama for his senior campaign in 2011 and racked up 36 tackles (four for a loss), a fumble recovery, two interceptions, four pass breakups, and a blocked kick in 12 games while earning second-team All-American honors.

Measuring in at just under 5-foot-10 and 191 pounds, Jenkins has the talent of a first-rounder but character concerns that are going to make teams be extra careful about selecting him. With a strong offseason showing and good interviews (while staying out of trouble, of course), Jenkins could end up back in the mid-to-late first round.

The Dolphins likely wouldn't consider Jenkins at No. 8 or 9 overall, and it's a stretch to think he'd reach the team's second-round pick (No. 40 or 41 overall) unless he has a bad pre-draft showing. However, the Dolphins would certainly consider him in the late-first if they trade down in a "best player available" mentality.


Follow all the Dolphins' draft prospect interactions with the 2012 NFL Draft player interest tracker here!