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Dolphins-Browns: Five Things To Watch

Posted Sep 7, 2013

Miami senses the importance of getting off to a fast start.

With three of their first five games of the 2013 season away from Sun Life Stadium, the Miami Dolphins are well aware of what’s at stake before the bye weekend. Facing a young but up-and-coming Cleveland Browns team right out of the gate at FirstEnergy Stadium will set the tone one way or the other.

From a defensive standpoint, Miami will see almost a mirror image of its own defense in the Browns when the offense takes the field. They like to blitz and stunt and use their speed along the front seven to cut down the time the quarterback has to locate his receivers, so Ryan Tannehill’s offensive line will have to answer the challenge.

Cleveland likes to run the ball behind its big offensive line with physical running back Trent Richardson, but that could play right into the Dolphins’ hands with their stout interior defensive linemen in Paul Soliai, Randy Starks and Jared Odrick. If Richardson does manage to get into the second level, new linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler will have to slow him down.

Here’s a look at some of the key matchups and angles for tomorrow’s ballgame in Cleveland.

Five Things To Watch:

1. What kind of success will Dolphins Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake have against Browns right tackle Mitchell Schwartz in getting pressure on Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden? – So far in his four NFL seasons, Wake hasn’t come across too many offensive tackles that can handle his speed and strength as he comes off the edge and zeros in on the opposing quarterback. Schwartz, in his second season after being taken in the second round last year out of Cal, owns a 62-pound weight advantage and three-inch height advantage on Wake, but if his first step is hesitant it’s going to be a long afternoon for the young lineman.

2. How will Miami’s nickel back, either Dimitri Patterson or Nolan Carroll, defend former Dolphins wide receiver Davone Bess in the slot? – Having gone against defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle’s unit on a daily basis in practice all of last season, Bess knows what to expect from the coverage schemes. He and Carroll are good friends, but they are also competitive, as is Patterson going against his former team, so those two Miami corners can’t allow Bess to move the chains effectively on third downs if they want to help out their own offense.

3. Can the rabid fans inside the famed Dawg Pound get to Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill in his first trip to Cleveland? – Tannehill gets excited for big games and for the chance to play in front of large and loud crowds and he wasn’t fazed last year on trips to places like Houston, Arizona, Indianapolis, New York and New England. But the Dawg Pound is a different animal, especially when your backed up near that end zone, so the second-year signal caller must be able to drown them out pre-snap if he wants to have success.

4. Is it possible for two of the strongest legs in the league – Dolphins punter Brandon Fields and rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis – to solve the stiff wind coming off of Lake Erie? – Field position is always pivotal in any game, and with Sturgis already showing a knack for booming his kickoffs out of the end zone for touchbacks he can’t allow that notorious Cleveland wind coming off the lake to knock the ball down out of the air. Fields led the NFL in gross punt average last year at 50.2 and he also is proficient at pinning teams inside the 20, so windy conditions have never bothered him.

5. Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin versus Browns rookie head coach Rob Chudzinski – Chudzinski is in the same position that Philbin was in last year at this time, preparing to coach his first NFL game, but he comes from a good breeding stock at the University of Miami. Opening up at home should be a luxury for him, but Philbin is familiar with opening on the road and with a year under his belt should be able to win the early chess battles.
Game Pass: Miami Dolphins