Tale Of The Tape: Miami Dolphins At Cleveland Browns
- QuarterbackThe Dolphins are coming off a 7-9 season in which they surprised a lot of observers. Rookie head coach Joe Philbin seemed to steady the ship in Miami and rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill claimed the quarterback job. Tannehill showed a sense of calm under pressure and he also threw the ball with greater accuracy as the season progressed.Brandon Weeden did enough last year to hold on to the starting quarterback position in 2013. Weeden has a good arm and showed improvement each month last season. That steady progress is largely the result of his courage under fire when facing a stiff pass rush. He doesn’t back down from any challenge.
- OffenseThe Dolphins are most likely going to struggle with their ground game, but Philbin thinks that the passing game will be much improved this year. In addition to Brian Hartline’s consistency as a receiver, the Dolphins picked up free agent Mike Wallace during free agency. Wallace has game-breaking speed. If Charles Clay can give them a receiving threat from the tight end position, the Dolphins will have a chance to challenge in the division.The running game has been fairly dependable for the Browns, thanks to Trent Richardson. The Browns expect Richardson to become a dominant rusher who can take the pressure off of Weeden. Davone Bess is going to have to serve as Weeden’s top receiving weapon because Josh Gordon is serving a two-game drug-related suspension. Bess has good hands, but he is not a deep threat.
- DefenseThe Dolphins know that they are going to have to depend on their defense this year if they are going to have a winning record. The key is DE Cameron Wake, who is coming off a dynamic 15.0 sack season. Free safety Chris Clemons is a potential game changer who had 99 tackles last year.The Browns ranked 23rd in overall defense last year and they were better against the run than they were against the pass. LB D’Qwell Jackson is coming off a solid year in which he had 118 tackles and 3.5 sacks. CB Buster Skrine is a decent cover man who impressed coaches with his tenacity and improvement. He is on the small side but he is aggressive.
- Special TeamsThe Dolphins were unhappy with Dan Carpenter last year and they have replaced him at the PK position with rookie Caleb Sturgis, who is supposed to be quite accurate. P Brandon Fields averaged a robust 50.2 yards per punt last year and dropped 29 kicks inside the 20.Special teams had been one of the Browns’ greatest strengths – perhaps their only one – in the last few seasons. However, PK Phil Dawson and P Reggie Hodges have both moved on and head coach Rob Chudzinski starts the season with question marks at both positions. Travis Benjamin will try to give the Browns a lift with his punt return skills.
The Browns would be in better shape for this game if the explosive Gordon was able to be in the lineup. The Browns are also hurt by the loss of Dawson because he is one of the most consistent placekickers in the game. The Dolphins made steady progress and they should start the season with a win on the road. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor