WHEN THE DOLPHINS RUN THE BALL
The Browns want to make the Dolphins a one-dimensional team, and the dimension they want to take away is the running game. This might be a good approach because the Dolphins failed to show any spark in their running game in the preseason after finishing 17 17th in the NFL in that category last season. Reggie Bush is gone and Lamar Miller is Miamis new starter. Millers reputation at the University of Miami hinged on an uncanny ability to break at least one long run per game. The Dolphins would love Miller to avoid the drive killing runs-for-losses that Bush sometimes suffered while also giving the running game a home-run threat. ADVANTAGE: Even
WHEN THE DOLPHINS PASS THE BALL
The complaint from Dolphins fans last season was that quarterback Ryan Tannehill didnt have weapons. He has them now! The Dolphins have the best starting receiver corps in the AFC East. Mike Wallace has a chance to immediately show he was worth every penny of his new $60million contract, but hell have to break free of Cleveland cornerback Joe Haden, who will likely shadow Wallace throughout the game. The Dolphins offensive line will be tested. The Browns dont have great star power in the front seven, especially with Barkevious Mingo out because of a bruised lung. But the Browns promise to blitz and attack and try to confuse on every passing down. This mean center Mike Pouncey has to be on his game in calling the right protections when he looks over the defense before the snap. ADVANTAGE: Dolphins.
WHEN THE BROWNS RUN THE BALL
Trent Richardson was generally not considered to have a great rookie season because he often was limited by injuries. But that doesnt mean he wasnt productive. He gained 950 yards rushing and his downhill style promised good things once he got healthy. Well, Richardson is healthy now. Unfortunately for the Browns, the Dolphins boast one of the better front sevens in the NFL and theyre not only good, but deep as well. How else to describe a unit that has Randy Starks, a former Pro Bowl performer and Miamis franchise player, sharing time with Jared Odrick, a former first-round pick? By the way, the Cleveland offensive line outside of left tackle Joe Thomas and center Alex Mack? Below average. ADVANTAGE: Dolphins.
WHEN THE BROWNS PASS THE BALL
The Browns have four receivers on the roster and three of them are slow. Only former University of Miami standout Travis Benjamin offers any speed because the NFL suspended Josh Gordon, the teams best receiver, for this game. Former Dolphins receiver Davone Bess is starting, and, although hes a proven threat in the slot, the fact hes playing outside in the base offense shows a deficiency of talent and depth. Quarterback Brandon Weeden is a classic pocket-passer and hes getting great coaching from offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who has a reputation for molding good quarterbacks. The problem is Turner molded good players into good quarterbacks. The jury is still out on whether Weeden is a good player at the start of his second NFL season. The Dolphins secondary is stable until teams go three- or four-wide. The Browns might not have the receiving talent to expose that weakness. ADVANTAGE: Even.
The Browns didnt have a kicker in camp until Wednesday. Even Dan Carpenter, who was released by the Dolphins several weeks ago, was scheduled to try out for the team and chose to sign with Buffalo instead. The Browns also are without Josh Cribbs this season. Cribbs was once the dominant return man in the NFL but his skills declined and he is now out of the league. Benjamin is expected to handle punts and kicks. The Dolphins are placing a high importance on special teams this season to the point first-round pick Dion Jordan will be involved and coach Joe Philbin says starters will play on the units. ADVANTAGE: Miami.
Rob Chudzinski is a first-year coach who is familiar to fans in South Florida for playing tight end on the University of Miamis 1989 national title team. He should also be familiar for the good work he has done with quarterbacks in the past. He has assembled a solid staff that includes Turner. Philbin starts his second NFL season as a head coach and it will be interesting to see what he does with a roster that has more talent and is more familiar with the Dolphins new culture. ADVANTAGE: Even.