Dolphins must brace for Rob Gronkowski

The Miami Dolphins haven’t received much good news the past several weeks heading into training camp. First, Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey needed hip surgery that will keep him out the first four to six games. Then, 2013 first-round pick Dion Jordan was suspended four games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

On Wednesday, the Dolphins received another shock to the system courtesy of the reigning AFC East champions. The New England Patriots, Miami’s Week 1 opponent, cleared Rob Gronkowski (knee) for the start of training camp. Barring any setbacks, that virtually guarantees the dominant tight end will be ready in six weeks for New England's regular-season opener against Miami at Sun Life Stadium. This is a big game for both teams as they try to set the tone early in the division.

Miami’s defense has struggled in recent seasons defending tight ends and slot receivers over the middle. The Dolphins are trying to improve by making changes. They switched former middle linebacker Dannell Ellerbe to outside linebacker and moved Koa Misi inside. Miami also signed free-agent safety Louis Delmas to replace Chris Clemons.

Gronkowski is a matchup nightmare for Miami and certainly makes it tougher for the Dolphins to win their home opener. The Patriots did not have Gronkowski and were not at full strength during their most recent loss the Dolphins last December.

Miami has playoff aspirations this season and must improve within the division. The Dolphins are 4-8 the past two seasons against AFC East opponents.