NT Paul Soliai (96) entered this offseason knowing he has to stand out above the rest of his teammates to earn his opportunity. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)
Dolphins fourth-year defensive tackle Paul Soliai is no dummy.
“Paul knows the challenges that are ahead of him. He reads the newspaper like everybody else,” said his new agent, David Canter of Miramar.
Soliai, the 2007 fourth-round pick out of Utah, knows it’s now-or-never time to earn his way onto the field in Miami. He sees his team draft Penn State defensive lineman Jared Odrick in the first round and switch Randy Starks to defensive tackle this offseason, and Soliai knows he better step up his production if he wants to be in the Dolphins’ long-term plans.
“That’s putting pressure on Paul,” Canter said, “and I think he’s responding tremendously thus far.”
Soliai, one of two remaining players from the 2007 draft (the other is punter Brandon Fields), has started just five games in three seasons and has yet to record a sack. Listed at 6-foot-4 and 355 pounds, Soliai has also battled weight issues during his time in Miami, earning two separate one-game suspensions in 2008 for not making weight.
But he finally worked his way into the rotation last year, finishing the season with 25 tackles (including six against the Jets), a forced fumble and a pass defensed. The Dolphins hope Soliai, 26, will help fill the void created by nose tackle Jason Ferguson and his 8-game suspension.
But Soliai must also prove he is worthy of the extra playing time. Canter said Soliai feels refreshed this offseason and is getting his “second-chance opportunity.”
“He’s ready to go,” Canter said. “He works out at the facility in the offseason program, from 7 in the morning ‘til 10 at night, doing their thing.”
Soliai, an American Somoan who played at Utah and hired a Colorado-based agent out of college, is trying to become more of a “South Florida” guy, and that started by switching to Canter this offseason.
“Making a change sometimes can be the greatest thing ever for a player,” Canter said. “Hiring an agent that’s local, someone that’s going to be on top of him on a regular basis, someone that’s going to motivate him, having the confidence of his wife behind him in the decision, in all honesty I think it’s kind of a refreshing.”