COMMENTARY | While the Miami Dolphins offense has been stealing the headlines in South Florida, the new-look defense will be under fire from the start of the 2013 campaign.
Dolphins fans: worried about Ryan Tannehill's progression in year two? How about Jonathan Martin as the answer at left tackle?
In truth, the offense will have some favorable matchups to get rolling early in the season.
On the other side of the ball? Not so much.
Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle has likely seen the schedule and scoffed at the first half slate. His unit will face a murderers' row of passing juggernauts in its first eight weeks.
After an opening week gift at Cleveland, the Dolphins will go to Indianapolis, home for Atlanta, at New Orleans and back to South Florida to play the Super Bowl champion Ravens. Then after a well-needed bye week and a home game with the Bills, Ryan Tannehill and Co. ride up to Foxboro for their first divisional showdown with New England.
Translation: by Halloween, the Dolphins will have faced four of the last year's top ten passing offenses. The Ravens didn't make the top ten but their numbers skyrocketed in the postseason, and we know where they ended up.
And did I mention that three out of four conference championship teams are in that group?
The opposing offenses all boast signal callers who make up the consensus top-ten of fantasy quarterbacks. The Miami defense will take on Andrew Luck, Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, Joe Flacco and Tom Brady all in an eight-week run.
I'm exhausted from just running through the quarterbacks' accolades in my mind.
The new faces in Miami must be prepared for a tough introduction full of no-huddle football and creative gameplanning. Adding a slew of new defenders in the offseason, in addition, does not bode well for a strong cohesive start.
Much of the Dolphins' defensive adjustments this offseason have been at the cornerback spot. New acquisition Brent Grimes leads the group, but more concerning is who will emerge from the weakside corner battle between the trio of Richard Marshall, Will Davis and Jamar Taylor.
It's no secret that whoever wins out of that group will be tested early and often, as opposing quarterbacks will avoid Grimes' on the strong side.
As for Miami's new-look front seven, this unit will look for production from the talented rookie Dion Jordan.
The No. 3 draft selection will be needed to help in coverage during these first seven games, much like he did at times in Oregon. As a result, Jordan may not be able to fill up the stat sheet like his critics will call for.
If last season was any indication, the Dolphins will keep these signal-callers out of the end zone frequently, but surrender hundreds of yards in the process. Coyle's unit finished in the top 5 in fewest points allowed, while giving up a bottom-ten total for passing yards allowed.
All in all, the Dolphins will undoubtedly be mentally and physically tested after that stretch. They could easily be 5-2 or 2-5 heading into Week 8; the gamut of results for this team sums up a wide range.
It's easy to get distracted by the allure of the Dolphin offense, featuring Mike Wallace and his grandiose visions, but the unit playing across from him in camp will carry the burden of early expectations.
Mike Shiekman is a graduate of the University of Florida and a former Miami Dolphins columnist at Bleacher Report. His work has appeared in the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Los Angeles Times, and Sign on San Diego among others.
You can follow Mike on Twitter @TheRealShiek
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