- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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Remember the 2012 Buffalo Bills?
Just one year ago, the Bills were the offseason champions in the AFC East and perhaps the entire NFL.
Buffalo was praised for its aggressive free-agent moves to land $100 million defensive end Mario Williams, fellow defensive end Mark Anderson, in addition to re-signing receiver Steve Johnson and extending tailback Fred Jackson. The Bills were thought to be a team on the rise, and I picked them as the sleeper team to watch in 2012.
The result was a 6-10 season for Buffalo. The Bills could never live up to their hype and fell apart amid high expectations.
One year later, the Dolphins are the new "it" team in the AFC East. They went on a spending spree in free agency by signing receiver Mike Wallace, tight end Dustin Keller and linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler. Miami also re-signed defensive tackle Randy Starks and 1,000-yard receiver Brian Hartline. Similar to Buffalo, Miami is also my sleeper pick for 2013.
That provides a bridge to Hartline's premature comments this week. According to Hartline, the Dolphins’ free-agent additions now give Miami a "championship offense." Miami added Wallace and Brandon Gibson at receiver and Keller at tight end.
"I think we got every move we needed to make," Hartline told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "We probably could add some depth at certain positions, but we've got all the pieces to the car, now we've just got to put it all together."
You never want to hear the word "championship" in April. That is only a setup for disappointment.
Sure, Miami’s offense improved in free agency. But there are still holes to address.
Here are several issues for the Dolphins' offense that Hartline failed to mention:
The Dolphins do not have a legit and proven left tackle. Miami lost four-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long in free agency. Former second-round pick Jonathan Martin is a better fit on the right side and must get stronger to make the switch. Second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill needs time to get the ball to his skill players. Miami’s offense won’t be effective if Tannehill is on his back. This is the top priority for the Dolphins in this week's draft.
Is tailback Lamar Miller ready to be a starter? Miami let go of Reggie Bush, who rushed for more than 2,000 yards combined the past two seasons. Miller is a 2012 fourth-round pick who showed flashes as a rookie with just 51 carries. He led the Dolphins with 4.9 yards per carry. However, can Miller carry the load with 200-250 carries this season? If Miami doesn't have a consistent running game, its offense will be one dimensional.
Finally, will Miami quickly develop offensive chemistry? There are a lot of new pieces. Players like Wallace, Keller and Gibson must come together immediately in the offseason. There is no time for a slow start if Miami wants the championship-caliber offense that Hartline mentioned.
Hartline is known to speak freely. I like that about him, but this was one thought he should've kept to himself. The receiver just put unnecessary pressure on Miami to be an offensive juggernaut this season. If the Dolphins' offense struggles early, Hartline will be reminded of his "championship offense" comment he made in April.