Miami Dolphins vs. Cleveland Browns - Positional Breakdown & Notes

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - SEPTEMBER 18: Head coach of the Miami Dolphins Tony Sparano watches the action during a game against the Houston Texans at Sun Life Stadium on September 18, 2011 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Can the Cleveland Browns feed off of the home field advantage that it seems like they have seldom had when they take on the Miami Dolphins? Miami is a team that is in a bit of disarray right now. Three teams in their division are 2-0, and each of them have looked awesome. The Dolphins were torched in record numbers by Tom Brady in their first game, and last week they didn't have much punch against the Houston Texans. Those are two tough opponents, but being two games back right off the bat means the Browns have another opportunity to take advantage of a team that is down.

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

  • Even if the Browns don't run it on gameday themselves, I hope they've been practicing Wildcat plays just to expose the defense to the concept. People on the roster should be familiar with how Daboll likes to run the Wildcat, so hopefully that plays into Cleveland's advantage if Miami decides to try it out this week.
     
  • Dolphins linebacker Jason Taylor was confident in his team's abilities heading into this week. "I believe we’re going to get on this airplane Saturday and go up to Cleveland and kick somebody’s ass," said Taylor. Let's prove otherwise.
     
  • Due to time constraints, my notes are brief this week. It is imperative that the Browns take a step forward this week and look more productive offensively beyond the second quarter. If not, it'll end up becoming a looming trend/habit that comes back to bite the Browns in a couple of games.

Position-by-Position Breakdown

Pos Adv  Reason
QB - Some quarterbacks can do no better than mediocre in the NFL, and for the past couple of years, I've felt that "mediocrity" describes Chad Henne well. The Dolphins have had a run heavy team the past few years, but Henne has consistently struggled to produce positive results in the red zone. I was very surprised the Dolphins didn't replace him.
 
Colt McCoy hasn't proven himself to be far superior to Henne or anything like that, but he seems to have more upside along with time to still prove himself. Even though some of his better throws come when he's on the run, it'd be a huge bonus to have the right side of the offensive line patched up this week.
RB - The Dolphins changed up their running back position this offseason, going with Daniel Thomas and Reggie Bush over Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. Even though Thomas was productive last week, the jury is still out on him. Bush can make some highlight plays as a receiver, but doesn't excel as a pure running back.
 
Peyton Hillis didn't have a strong yards per carry average last week, but he finished with two touchdowns and does not look worn out yet. With that said, backup Montario Hardesty is expected to see more reps to prevent Hillis from getting worn out, and to give him a breather in case his strep throat illness hurts his stamina.
WR - Brandon Marshall is a tough receiver to defend, but Henne struggles to get him the ball where it counts -- in the red zone. Henne's other options, Brian Hartline and Devone Bess, combine to form a pretty good trio for the Dolphins. Cleveland seemed to work in a better rotation at receiver last week, and I don't expect much to change this week except maybe some more receiving opportunities for tight end Evan Moore.
OL -

The big news for the Browns is that Tony Pashos could return this week at right tackle. With the right tackle set to have to deal with linebacker Cameron Wake, having stability on the right side is ideal. Pashos was not working with the first-team offense in practice though, so my expectations remain tamed.

The Dolphins have had issues with the right side of their offensive line, penalties from the unit, and overall sloppy play. Even left tackle Jake Long needs to get back up to par. Both teams have issues at this unit right now, so I'm calling it even.

DL - Cleveland struggled to get their running game going against the Dolphins at the end of last season, and not much has changed since then except that Cleveland's offensive line has suffered some setbacks. The Browns' defensive line has been a bright spot over the first two weeks, and it'll be interesting to see how the switch of Jayme Mitchell and Jabaal Sheard does for the second straight week.
LB - Wake has to be considered one of the best pass rushers in the league. He was on fire a year ago, and he already has two sacks to start off this season. When you add in veteran linebackers Karlos Dansby and Jason Taylor to the mix, this unit is hoping to come together and stop the bleeding. The Browns have had productive outings from D'Qwell Jackson, but it's been relatively quiet at the position other than him.
DB - The Dolphins will be without top cornerback Vontae Davis, and their secondary has been torched over the past two weeks by Tom Brady and Matt Schaub. This is the week the Browns' receivers should be able to get some separation. The Browns have done well against two non-elite passers through two weeks, and I expect them to do the same against Henne in Week 3.
ST - Joshua Cribbs. Kick it to him, and you'll regret it. Even though he doesn't control special teams, I wonder if Brian Daboll will advise Miami's staff on what type of things frustrated Cribbs (i.e. squib kicks, kicking it short, etc) when he was in Cleveland.

 
I never liked Brian Daboll's playcalling when the Browns got down in a game, but he did always seem to script first drives well. Hopefully Cleveland can get the football first and put some first quarter points on the board. If you get to the Dolphins early, Daboll will abandon the run and put the ball in the hands of a mistake-ridden Henne.

FINAL PREDICTION: Cleveland Browns 31, Miami Dolphins 20
CHRIS' OVERALL NFL PREDICTIONS RECORD: 25-7
CHRIS' RECORD AT PICKING BROWNS GAMES: 1-1

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