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The personification of Miami's difficult schedule

We've heard all summer, since the NFL schedule came out, that Miami's was reeeaally hard. It is the toughest in the NFL taking last season's records ... blah, blah, blah.

Well that all is true. But Monday night, on national television, the reason that schedule is truly difficult will be personified at the tight end and defensive end positions the Dolphins must contend with and contain.

Last week, the Dolphins struggled to cover only the best tight end to play the game the past decade or so, and some say ever. Tony Gonzalez caught five passes for 73 yards and a touchdown versus Miami in generally getting the better of Miami safeties Yeremiah Bell and Gibril Wilson.

So yes, that kinda hurt the Miami defense. And this week the assignment, it can be argued, gets tougher.

This week the Dolphins have to deal with Indianapolis tight end Dallas Clark, a Pro Bowl player in his own right and one tied for most touchdowns by a tight end since 2007 with 17. So the Dolphins go from one difficult assignment and fall into another inarguably difficult assignment.

That is the personification of a difficult schedule.

It does not end there.

We all saw last week the difficulties left tackle Jake Long had against John Abraham. He yielded a sack and several hurries to Abraham. And that is understandable because Abraham is a premier pass rusher who had 16 1/2 sacks last season to earn a spot among the NFL leaders.

Well, this week the assignment remains difficult for Long. This week he faces defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, who combined for 22 sacks a season ago. Freeney (10 1/2 sacks in 2008) and Mathis (11 1/2 sacks in 2008) typically switch from side to side as their defensive calls warrant. So Long will likely face both if they're healthy.

That's back-to-back weeks of double-digit sack men on tap for Long. That never happened to him in 2008.  In fact, Long had only one game in which he faced a player that would total double-digit sacks for the season in 2008 -- that coming when he faced Houston's Mario Williams.

Said another way, Long faced only one player that had double-digit sacks in 2008. And by Week 2 this year, he will have faced three players that had double digit sacks in 2008.

So don't tell Jake Long the schedule ain't harder. And that schedule promises more challenges down the pike for both Miami's safeties and Long.

Remember I told you Clark is tied for most TD catches by a tight end since 2007? He's tied with San Diego's Antonio Gates. The Dolphins play Gates and the Chargers in Week 3.

Long, meanwhile, is looking at a season in which he's going to run into Shawne Merriman, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Jevon Kearse, Julius Peppers, Mario Williams again, James Harrison, Aaron Schobel twice, Will Smith and Charles Grant. And all those men have had double-digit sacks seasons in the NFL.

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