CLEVELAND (CBSMiami/AP) — The Dolphins are getting ready for their regular season opener against the Brows Sunday.
They were the “other” rookie quarterbacks last season.
Maybe it’s Brandon Weeden and Ryan Tannehill’s turn to shine.
They were members of a star-studded class that included Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson, who each led teams to the playoffs in their first NFL seasons. Weeden and Tannehill labored last year for the Browns and Miami Dolphins, two franchises counting on their second-year QBs to make them contenders in 2013.
On Sunday, they’ll go head-to-head in the season opener, but it’s not the first time they’ve played.
In college, Weeden led Oklahoma State to two wins over Tannehill and Texas A&M. However, one of those came before Tannehill converted from wide receiver to quarterback, though Weeden might count the victory anyway. In fact, Weeden was 5-0 against Tannehill, Luck and Griffin in college.
So far, he’s 0-1 against those guys in the NFL, a mark he can even this week.
“I want to beat them playing checkers,” he said.
Weeden and Tannehill both threw for over 3,000 yards last season. They’re similar in size, and both have high-powered arms and are prototypical pocket passers. Also, both QBs — fairly or unfairly — will forever be judged because they were drafted the same year as Luck, Griffin and Wilson.
Dolphins coach Joe Philbin just wants Tannehill to be himself.
“What I’m looking for from Ryan this year is improved decision-making, better ball accuracy and playmaking abilities at critical times in a game,” he said. “Beyond that, I’m not concerned about how other people compare him to Andrew Luck, RG3 or anybody else. I am concerned about how well he plays for the Miami Dolphins, though.”
With the Dolphins traveling to Cleveland for the opener, here are five things to keep an eye on other than the two QBs:
OPENING WOES: Season openers have been a nightmare for both teams, but especially the Browns.
Since returning to the league in 1999, Cleveland is 1-13 in Week 1, an abysmal statistic made worse since the team is 1-12 at home. The Browns’ lone win came in 2004, a 20-3 victory over Baltimore.
The Dolphins, meanwhile, are just 1-6 since 2005.
It’s imperative for the Browns to get off to a good start under new coach Rob Chudzinski, and with road games at Baltimore and Minnesota the next two weeks, 0-1 could turn into 0-3 quickly.
“We have to get over that hump,” cornerback Joe Haden said. “It’s not going to be, ‘OK, let’s get the next one. Let’s get the next one.’ We have to win this first game.”
FLYING FISH: The Dolphins added much-needed speed and big-play potential to their offense, signing wide receiver Mike Wallace as a free agent in March.
Wallace, who scored 32 touchdowns the past four seasons with Pittsburgh, gives Tannehill a down-field threat and a nice complementary piece to Miami’s passing game, which totaled just 13 TDs last season.
“It’s always a major impact when you can bring someone in with a rare skill set, that loves football, works hard and really provides special play capabilities,” said Dolphins wideout Brian Hartline. “He brings something to the table that not too many people in the NFL can do.”
3. RICHARDSON’S WORKLOAD: The Browns will lean on Trent Richardson in 2013.
The second-year back may be the most important player on Cleveland’s roster. Richardson rushed for 950 yards last season, playing half of it with two broken ribs. And while new offensive coordinator Norv Turner favors a vertical passing game, his offense is rooted in the run, and Richardson could get 300 rushes this season.
That’s fine with Richardson, who knows that following the loss of running backs Dion Lewis and Montario Hardesty to injuries and roster cuts, he’s being counted on to carry the load.
To do that, he must stay healthy.
“This year I’m not looking towards no injury, no broken fingernails, nothing,” Richardson said. “I know my whole season is based on being healthy.”
4. FAR FROM PERFECT: The 1972 Miami Dolphins, who went 17-0, finally got to make their long overdue trip to the White House this summer. While this year’s squad is unlikely to win the Super Bowl, the roster has been overhauled and expectations are high in South Florida.
But with 17 new players on the 53-man roster, including all nine draft picks, patience will be at a premium.
Youth, though, won’t be an excuse.
“It’s put up or shut up time for us,” said offensive guard Richie Incognito. “There’s no learning curve.”
5. NO FLASH: The Browns will be without one of their best offensive weapons, as wide receiver Josh Gordon is suspended for the first two games for violating the NFL’s drug policy.
Without Gordon, the Browns will count on Davone Bess, who spent the previous five seasons with Miami, and second-year speedster Travis Benjamin to put pressure on Miami’s secondary.
“Josh is a guy who’s capable of making big plays,” Turner said. “So if we’re going to make those, we’re going to have to get them from someone else. Those guys just have to step up and make the plays that are there for them.”
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