Although we're only a few weeks removed from the 2012 regular season, I’m sure I’m not the only Miami Dolphins fan that is eagerly awaiting kickoff in 2013.
It’s easy to look at this past year as another sub-par showing after missing out on the playoffs and posting a record below .500 for the fourth straight season.
But then again, you can’t really judge a book by its cover, can you?
For the first time in recent memory, I can honestly say that my hopes are exceedingly high for this Dolphins team in 2013.
You heard it here first, but barring some horribly unorthodox offseason with complete and utter incompetence from a management standpoint, the Dolphins will be ready to contend for the Lombardi Trophy as early as next season.
That’s right, I said it.
With over $35 million in cap space available, Stephen Ross and Jeff Ireland are ready to make some major moves in Miami this offseason.
Head coach Joe Philbin will likely keep management in check when it comes to personnel with his strict philosophy and no-nonsense approach to things, but that's honestly for the best.
The team needs to pursue some big-name free agents and patch up at least a few of their holes prior to the draft.
Expect a free-agent wide receiver, cornerback and some key re-signings to be the focal points of free agency for the Dolphins.
Don't be surprised if they also look for some help on the offensive line or in the pass rush, depending on who's available and at what cost.
It’s tough for a first-year head coach to walk on to a new team and expect instant results, especially when that team is in the early stages of rebuilding.
Despite that, Joe Philbin led the Miami Dolphins to a 7-9 record in 2012 in what could have easily been a playoff-bound season.
I can’t say that I agreed with the play-calling and game plan each and every week, but I was able to see some development as the season went on.
Regardless, an entire offseason to breakdown the roster, evaluate talent and bring in additional players through free agency and the draft are exactly what this staff needs.
Philbin's emphasis on character and discipline is unrivaled, leading me to believe that he'll play a major role in finding the right pieces to round out this Dolphins squad.
Kevin Coyle, who was once a defensive backs coach in Cincinnati, should be able to find some answers to the defensive problems in the passing game.
And expect Mike Sherman, who is all too familiar with Ryan Tannehill at this point, to excel in his play-calling with additional offensive weapons at his disposal.
The Dolphins front seven was a force to be reckoned with in 2012.
The Dolphins recognize their desperate need for help in the secondary, with Sean Smith proving that he cannot handle opposing teams' top targets.
A lockdown corner needs to be acquired in either free agency or the draft, with Smith still being a solid option to return as their No. 2 guy.
Once that glaring hole is addressed, and assuming Reshad Jones continues his level of play at safety, this defense will easily be one of the most feared in the league.
With nine picks in seven rounds, and five of those coming in the first 100 selections, there is absolutely no reason why this team should be entering training camp with any serious spots of weakness.
Call me crazy, but my gut feeling is telling me that Ireland will finally find success as he continues his efforts to resurrect this struggling franchise.
He's given us plenty of reasons to have our doubts over the years, but after a solid showing in last year's draft, I genuinely expect him to build upon what he has built and bring in some quality talent for 2013.
The rookie quarterback class of 2012 will go down as one of the best in NFL history.
That also means that the world will be watching closely with extremely high expectations as they all head into their sophomore seasons.
Ryan Tannehill has a full year under his belt, and he'll have an entire offseason to work with what will be the core group of players surrounding him for the next few years.
The Dolphins coaching staff was slow in finding ways to play to Tannehill’s strengths, but as the season progressed, they started to figure things out.
I’d be shocked if they don’t make some adjustments this offseason to increase their offensive production and utilize Tannehill's ability to make plays out of the pocket.
Surround him with some offensive weapons, design your game plan around his strengths, and there is no reason why Tannehill won't take the next big step in his professional development this season.