Cleveland Browns vs. Miami Dolphins: Positional Breakdown & Notes

Dolphins LB Cameron Wake has delivered a big-time pass rush for the team this season, and we have to worry about John St. Clair blocking him.

The Cleveland Browns face two big questions when they take on the Miami Dolphins on Sunday:

  • Will Jake Delhomme throw another pick six?
  • Will the defense go for the tackle instead of the strip?

The Dolphins are a tough team to beat, but Cleveland has shown when they can do if they don't beat themselves. If Cleveland learns from their mistakes and the coaches' messages are able to translate to the fourth quarter of the game, Cleveland can pull off the victory. Will they be able to do it?

Here are some notes heading into the game, followed by my positional breakdown and prediction for the game:

  • If Joshua Cribbs has limited pain against the Dolphins and is able to play the receiver position too, that will be a huge plus. Miami is not very good at defending kick returns, and Cribbs is the receiver who can stretch the field and deliver some nice blocks for Peyton Hillis.
     
  • It'll be interesting to see which defensive back gets the assignment of covering Brandon Marshall.
     
  • I know we didn't see Seneca Wallace at all last week, but the Cyclone was intended to appear with Jake Delhomme and Joshua Cribbs in the game. With Wallace supposedly still limited last week and Cribbs extremely limited, the formation was not utilized at all. Maybe the concept has been completely scrapped, but if Cribbs, Wallace, and Delhomme are all healthy, this will be the first time that has been the case since Week 1. Cribbs noted that the warm weather in Miami should help with any pain too.
     
  • If we're still talking far-fetched playoff scenarios, Baltimore has the tougher schedule the rest of the way, so I'm "rooting" for Pittsburgh to beat Baltimore on Sunday Night Football.
     
  • Chad Henne was limited by a knee injury when it came to his mobility last week, so Miami inserted Tyler Thigpen into the game for some quarterback draws. The Browns need to be aware of this if Henne is still hobbled -- force pressure on him in the pocket like they did to Jimmy Clausen last week, and if Thigpen is in the game, have a QB spy ready.
     
  • We'll we see Jordan Norwood active as a receiver instead of Carlton Mitchell this week? What about our new safety?

Position-by-Position Breakdown

Pos Adv  Reason
QB - It has not been a great season for Chad Henne. If you recall, he was benched three weeks ago for Chad Pennington. Pennington suffered an injury just as soon as he entered the game, allowing Henne to reclaim the starting job. Maybe that lit a fire under Henne, because he has played a little better since then. There's no secret that Henne will put the ball in the air, but he hasn't been able to connect with his receivers in the red zone.
 
While I am still compelled by what Jake Delhomme does at certain points of the game, there's no way the Browns can be favored here with a quarterback who is averaging one or two pick sixes a week. Henne just has trouble scoring touchdowns, but that's safer than giving the other team a free touchdown.
RB - The Browns had their worst game of the season in terms of defending the run last week, which would seem to bode well for the duo of Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown. Williams has performed a little better than Brown this year, but Brown is still the featured back.
 
The Browns get the advantage here because Peyton Hillis is a machine, and because Miami's running game has been too hot and cold. Not having the Wildcat be as effective as it used to be has hurt them a little, but the formation had a mini-comeback against Oakland last week since Henne is hobbled.
WR
TE
- In terms of talent, I don't think any quarterback would turn down having a target like Brandon Marshall to throw the football too. Marshall leads the team in receptions, but he has only reached the end zone once. Miami has three other receivers who are targeted often -- Davone Bess, Brian Hartline, and Anthony Fasano. While I'm not saying none of them will catch a deep ball, overall, I think of Miami's receivers as being good possession receivers.
 
We know the deal with Cleveland's wideouts. Brian Robiskie saw more targets last week with Delhomme in the lineup, and I expect that to continue this week. If Joshua Cribbs is running better, he should be able to contribute too, perhaps on some go routes.

OL - I hesitated giving Cleveland the advantage here because the right side of the line, due to John St. Clair, still makes me nervous. Miami has a pretty talented line overall, but their linemen have been playing hurt.
 
Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long has been bothered by a shoulder injury, preventing him from playing as good as he is capable of playing. Right tackle Vernon Carey is trying to tough things out with a knee injury. Rookie right guard John Jerry hasn't played exceptionally well.
DL - The Dolphins have done a good job at occupying blocks to allow their linebackers to stop opposing running backs. I wish the Browns had some more options at defensive end, but it is clearly a position to address in the future given there is no youth there.
LB - This is the unit that has received a lot of praise this season. Outside linebacker Cameron Wake has emerged as a serious pass rushing threat, as he leads the AFC with 11 sacks. The scary part? He usually rushes from the side that St. Clair will be on.
 
Karlos Dansby is great at inside linebacker, but his injury status is something to watch. He is battling a turf toe and a wrist injury, which forced him to only play limited downs against Oakland. For Cleveland, it's all about the need to start tackling well again, something that has been a problem since Scott Fujita's injury.
DB - Miami also does a pretty good job at defending the pass, thanks to cornerback Vontae Davis. He is their premiere cover guy, and the team recently added veteran Al Harris as depth. At safety, Chris Clemons and Yeremiah Bell are not necessarily a weakness, but the secondary in general does not create a whole lot of turnovers.
 
I've love the way the unit of Joe Haden, Sheldon Brown, T.J. Ward, and Abram Elam have been playing, but Miami is a little deeper at receiver than Carolina and Jacksonville were and I'm iffy on the return of Eric Wright to the lineup.
ST - Cleveland is starting to give up a couple of decent-sized returns on punts, which concerns me. The kickoff coverage is still very good, and Phil Dawson and Reggie Hodges remain reliable. Dan Carpenter leads the league in field goals for Miami. The Dolphins have struggled at times with their kick coverage units, yielding two touchdowns and an average of 26.3 yards per return.


Miami has not been getting the job done at home this year, and their red zone offense has struggled against most of the teams in the league. If Cleveland can get through this game without a pick six from Delhomme, I like Peyton Hillis and Mike Bell to both receive a fair amount of carries en route to victory.

FINAL PREDICTION: Cleveland Browns 20, Miami Dolphins 13.
CHRIS' RECORD IN PICKING BROWNS GAMES: 6-5
CHRIS' OVERALL NFL PREDICTIONS RECORD: 108-68

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