1) Can secondary stand up?
Every team that goes up against the Cleveland Browns offense must play right on the edge of being disciplined, but take calculated risks in order to slow down their explosive potential. Usually teams will have an experienced corner or safety to rely on who can play against or can match up with elite receivers like Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. Miami’s secondary right now doesn’t have that luxury with Pro Bowl players like Xavien Howard and Reshad Jones out of the lineup. When you add safety Bobby McCain to that list, the Dolphins get very thin quickly in the secondary and the young talent will need to step up in a hurry on the road this Sunday. Names like Nik Needham, Steven Parker, Ryan Lewis and Jomal Wiltz will have a significant challenge ahead of them to not only limit the big play ability of the Browns receivers, but to communicate and not give up the easy completions because of alignment issues.
2) Tackle well in space
The Cleveland offense has plenty of explosive players and options for second-year quarterback Baker Mayfield. Players such as Beckham or Landry and can take a short completion and turn it into a game-changing play anywhere on the field. Even handing the ball to Kareem Hunt or Nick Chubb can force a defense to limit their yards after first contact once they get into the second level of a defense. Setting the edge and not allowing these players to create space after a catch or when breaking the initial tackle will be critical this week, especially with new faces appearing in the Miami secondary. Completions and successful plays are going to happen, but the key on Sunday will be not allowing the average gain turn into an explosive play that continues a drive on third down or worse turning those plays into points.
3) Running game must emerge
Creating balance in an offense doesn’t mean you’re going guarantee success, but for this Dolphins offense, it sure would help quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick move this team with better consistency. The offensive line didn’t provide this option last week against Buffalo, rushing for just 23 yards and forcing Fitzpatrick to throw 45 times. Running back Kalen Ballage hasn’t found much running room over the last two weeks, rushing for a total of 50 yards in those two games. Too many missed assignments and penetration into the offensive backfield has made the Dolphins rushing attack non-existent. The Browns defense has allowed an average of 127 yards per game and 4.8 yards per carry, so this might be the week where Miami can utilize the ground game to offset the the pressure that’s been applied to Fitzpatrick and the passing attack. This might also be the week where we see a little bit more of rookies Patrick Laird and Myles Gaskin get more touches and see if their quickness can jump start a sluggish rushing game.