Throughout the early portions of Dolphins week, we've been talking up Bills center Eric Wood - for his seamless transition from guard to center, for his dominating play against Cleveland, and for his fundamentals.
Things don't get any easier for Wood this week, as he'll be tasked with blocking monstrous nose tackle Paul Soliai, who is having himself quite the season.
The 6'4", 355-pound Soliai didn't get much playing time in his first three seasons. Pressed into Miami's starting nose tackle role this season, he's been something of a revelation, even as his stats don't stand out (26 tackles, two sacks). Soliai is the anchor of Mike Nolan's vastly underrated defense - one that is rated seventh against the run, sixth against the pass, and fifth overall.
Wood will have his job cut out for him this week trying to neutralize the physical, highly active Soliai. To get a better idea of the magnitude of Soliai's impact on Miami's defense, I consulted with Matt Infante of The Phinsider, who was more than happy to share a little information about the man Channing Crowder calls the key to Nolan's defense.
Here's Matt on Soliai in its entirety:
The Dolphins suddenly have a top five defense in the league. While there are a couple of reasons why Miami's defense under Mike Nolan has ascended so quickly, there might not be a bigger reason than the play of nose tackle Paul Soliai. And I mean that both figuratively and literally.
Soliai has been been improving steadily since being inserted into the starting lineup following Jared Odrick's season-ending injury that forced the Dolphins move Randy Starks back to end. More specifically, though, Soliai has been simply outstanding - playing as well as I've ever seen a nose tackle play week in and week out - over the past three weeks.
Channing Crowder was just one teammate who has credited Paul with being the key to why this defense has been so good lately. And just how good has this Miami defense been over the past three weeks? They held Darren McFadden to just two yards rushing on eight carries. That was followed up by holding Peyton Hillis to just 57 yards on 18 carries. And then last week against the Jets' two-headed backfield, the Dolphins held LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene to a combined 66 yards on the ground on 27 total carries.
Last week's performance is particularly impressive considering Soliai went toe-to-toe with one of the game's best centers, Nick Mangold, and really dominated the line of scrimmage. While I admit I haven't seen much of Eric Wood since he was drafted, I'm having a hard time believing he'll be able to block Soliai by himself consistently.