1) Sluggish start
The Dolphins stumbled out of the starting gate for the second consecutive week on both sides of the ball, eventually falling on the road to Cleveland 41-24. The Browns offense was unstoppable, scoring on three of their first four possessions, and put the game away after the first 30 minutes. Cleveland used a balanced attack orchestrated by second-year quarterback Baker Mayfield, throwing for 327 yards and three touchdowns against an inexperienced Miami secondary. Mayfield completed 12 consecutive passes during the first half and faced little resistance from the Dolphins pass rush or secondary coverage. Miami’s defense couldn’t slow down the Browns balanced attack and Mayfield and company racked up 266 total yards and 17 first downs by halftime. In contrast, Miami’s offense had three 3-and-outs on their first four possessions and ran just nine offensive plays in the first quarter. The Dolphins also committed an uncharacteristic eight penalties for 94 yards, with most of those committed trying to keep up with Pro Bowl receivers Odell Beckham Jr and former Dolphin Jarvis Landry, who made the most of his first appearance against the organization that drafted him. Juice had 10 receptions for 148 yards and two touchdowns and really was unstoppable no matter what Dolphin defender lined up opposite him.
2) Skill position superiority
There’s no question the Browns can play with the very best teams in the AFC because of the skill players they have assembled. We all could see how talented this team is, using both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt at running back to complement OBJ and Landry in the passing game. These four players, with help from quarterback Mayfield, took over the game from start to finish. They helped the Browns amass 467 total yards and when they’re meshing the way they were on Sunday, it’s hard to slow down because of the versatility they provide to their team. On defense, Cleveland’s young corner tandem of Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams held the Miami pass offense to just 192 yards through the air. The Browns have been stockpiling their elite talent over the past few season and now they are at the point they can compete for the entire season. It was a learning lesson day for some of the youthful talent on the Dolphins roster for players like corners Nik Needham, Ryan Lewis and safety Steven Parker. Even second-year game experienced players like Jerome Baker and Raekwon McMillian should have learned something trying to slow down the Browns rushing duo. Hopefully, Miami is in the position over the next two off-seasons to acquire and draft talent that can bolster this roster to compete on a weekly basis where they will have the upper hand when it comes to the skill positions.
3) Running on empty
The Dolphins rushing game has been a work in progress all season long, and it has seemed to regress over the last two games. There’s just not a lot of running room no matter who’s carrying the football, or what defense they are facing. The lack of a running game is allowing opposing defenses to sell out when rushing quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Without a running threat, Fitzpatrick has been forced to use his legs when escaping a consistent pass rush. The 37-year-old veteran was Miami’s leading rusher on Sunday, going for 45 yards and a touchdown. Fitz also had a long of 17 yards which was the longest run from scrimmage for the Dolphins offense. The wildcat formation has helped the offensive line and running back Kalen Ballage create a surge up front and has been used with some success. But this is a short term fix and can’t be the answer this coaching staff is looking to use long term. I would expect to see rookie Patrick Laird more next week against the Eagles to find out what he can provide. Laird found some running room and seems to have good instincts finding creases in the running game. He rushed just three time in the game but had 20 yards and a long of 13.