Dissecting Best Individual Matchups to Watch in Miami Dolphins' Week 1 Action

Thomas Galicia@thomasgaliciaContributor IISeptember 2, 2013

HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 17:  Mike Wallace #11 of the Miami Dolphins celebrates with Brian Hartline #82 after Wallace scored a 9-yard toudhdown in the first half against the Houston Texans during a preseaon game at Reliant Stadium on August 17, 2013 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The regular season will finally commence on Sunday when the Miami Dolphins travel to Cleveland to take on the Browns in a battle of two teams who hope to make 2013 the year they return to prominence.

Both the Dolphins and the Browns hope to get that initial victory in Week 1; however, like all games, it's a big matchup of two teams made up of a series of individual matchups on the field.

Today we will be looking at the key individual matchups that make up Dolphins vs. Browns.


Jonathan Martin vs. Desmond Bryant

Despite his offseason troubles, Desmond Bryant was one of the key free-agent signings for the Browns as they attempted to give their front seven a much needed makeover.

Bryant spent the last four seasons in Oakland as a defensive tackle, but in Cleveland under its 3-4 defense, he will be used as a defensive end, whose main job is to open up the lane for Cleveland's linebackers to get in.

It will be up to Martin to make sure that Bryant neither opens up those lanes nor allows Bryant himself to get to the quarterback. It seems like a fairly simple task until you have to face him on the field.

The Dolphins do "luck out" by not having to face a Browns front seven that contains Barkevious Mingo (out with a bruised lung), who would normally be the player that comes up behind Bryant in the Browns pass rush. 

That won't make facing Cleveland's defense any easier. Bryant himself is fairly athletic and if not blocked properly, can get into the pocket himself.

That's why Martin will have to be the Jonathan Martin we have seen in the preseason games against Houston and Jacksonville, and not the Martin we saw last season.


Olivier Vernon vs. Joe Thomas

Here's a baptism by fire for second-year player (and first-year starter) Olivier Vernon.

Get past Joe Thomas, the best left tackle in the NFL.

Vernon looked great throughout training camp when lined up opposite Jonathan Martin and is one of the main reasons why many are doubting Miami's left tackle.

Whether this was a product of Vernon's overall talent or Martin's own issues remains to be seen, but what we do know is that battling the Browns' blindside protector will take every last ounce of effort.

Thomas is not only tasked with keeping quarterback Brandon Weeden upright, but also clearing a path for Browns running back Trent Richardson. Vernon has the starting job due in part to his ability to stop the run. How he does both will go a long way toward determining who wins this battle (and the game as a whole).


Cameron Wake vs. Mitchell Schwartz

On the other side of the defense, you have Miami's stud defensive end taking on a second-year right tackle that showed promise in his rookie season. 

Mitchell Schwartz was taken in the second round last season out of Cal, and despite having some struggles, he is working his way toward becoming one of the best and toughest right tackles in the NFL (he's already one of the smartest). 

Schwartz will have both his football intelligence and toughness tested against Wake, who's expected to have another Pro Bowl season for the Dolphins. Whether Wake has enough help coming from the other side on pass rushes will remain to be seen with Dion Jordan still questionable for Sunday's game and Olivier Vernon going up against Joe Thomas.

But we know what Wake is capable of, and the hope is that Schwartz will have the same tough time with Wake that every other NFL right tackle has had with him.


Mike Wallace vs. Joe Haden

These two are familiar with each other—very familiar with each other.

Wallace has spent the last three years playing against Haden twice a year, save for last year when Wallace missed the final game of the season against Cleveland.

Haden did have his way with Wallace in the first game between the two teams in Week 12, holding him to one catch for nine yards.

Looking at the matchup between the two players since Haden entered the league, Wallace likely wishes there were other players he'd face in his first game as a Miami Dolphin. However Pittsburgh's offense only counted on Wallace to make the deep catches, which made Wallace an easier cover for Haden.

That won't be the case in this game, where Haden will have to account for Wallace running a variety of routes based on the situation at hand.

Whether Wallace lights up Haden or is shut down by him again will be the most interesting individual matchup to watch on Sunday afternoon and will likely go on to decide the winner of the season opener.

Thomas Galicia hosts Dolphins Central Radio, which has new episodes available every Monday Night. This week, Thomas welcomes Miami Dolphins linebacker Dannell Ellerbe to the show to discuss the upcoming season.