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Big-name players aren’t only ones who will make impact

Published:   |   Updated: March 16, 2014 at 08:38 AM

TAMPA — All week long, you heard about the impact Darrelle Revis, DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, Eric Decker and Jairus Byrd could have on their new teams.

Now, let’s get to five under-the-radar moves that also deserve your full attention.

Some of these guys are fast and shifty. Some are beefy and nasty.

All of them figure to make a difference this fall.

LINVAL JOSEPH DT, Vikings

There was a time not so long ago when Minnesota boasted the stingiest run defense in pro football. Nobody else was really close, because Kevin Williams and Pat Williams formed a 650-pound wall in the middle of the defensive line.

Here comes Joseph, a 6-foot-4, 328-pound slab who won’t be 26 until October.

The Giants shouldn’t have allowed him to hit free agency, but now Joseph is eager to show off his 2012 Super Bowl ring to new teammates, all determined to make the Vikings relevant again in the NFC North.

“I have size, I have speed, I have smarts and I make plays,’’ said Joseph, who obviously also has confidence. “At the end of the day, that’s what this game is about ... making plays.’’

TED GINN WR, Cardinals

This former Ohio State standout is already on his third NFL team at age 28, but Arizona coach Bruce Arians can’t wait to showcase Ginn’s speed as a complement to Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd.

Ginn was a pivotal role player for the NFC South champion Panthers last season, scoring five touchdowns among his 36 catches, and he’s also an exceptional kick returner.

“(The Cardinals) need a fast guy, which I can bring to them,’’ said Ginn, who ran a 4.38-second 40-yard dash before the Dolphins selected him with the ninth overall pick in the 2007 draft.

What can he run seven years later?

“A 4.38,” he said, “without working.”

ZIGGY HOOD DT, Jaguars

Coming out of Missouri as a late first-round draft pick in 2009, Hood never fulfilled his potential with the Steelers, who made a mistake by switching him to end in a 3-4 alignment.

Hood proved to be durable, but he didn’t make the splash plays coach Mike Tomlin expected.

With former Bucs assistants Gus Bradley (head coach) and Todd Wash (defensive line) now developing Hood in Jacksonville, he should flourish inside in a 4-3 front that’s a better fit for his skills.

“I bring energy and a non-stop motor,” Hood said. “I may not get there initially, but it’s not going to keep me from getting to the play eventually.”

DARREN SPROLES RB, Eagles

In three seasons with the Saints, Sproles averaged 77 catches and 5.7 yards per carry, helping quarterback Drew Brees spread the field.

Sproles gives Philadelphia’s creative coach, Chip Kelly, some insurance behind NFL rushing king LeSean McCoy, and don’t be surprised if both scatbacks are on the field together at times to form a matchup nightmare for defensive coordinators.

Sproles can also win a game or two with his return skills.

“Darren Sproles is an unbelievable offensive weapon,’’ Kelly said. “He can do it all.’’

PAUL SOLIAI DT, Falcons

When Atlanta’s miserable season mercifully ended, exasperated owner Arthur Blank wasted no time getting to a podium. And when those cameras started rolling, Blank didn’t mince words.

He said his team was soft in the trenches, too easy to play against.

Soliai, 30, is tough. Ask any guard or center who tried to block him when he helped the Dolphins stuff the inside running game.

Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan was in Miami for two of Soliai’s four years as a starter, capped by a 2011 Pro Bowl berth. Look for Atlanta to play more of a 3-4 scheme in 2014, with the 340-pound Soliai plugged in at nose tackle.

“Our main goal is to stop the run,” Soliai said of his job description. “That’s basically what we do — take on the double-teams and our brothers will have the one-on-ones.”

ikaufman@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7833

Twitter: @IKaufmanTBO

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