This Sunday, the Cleveland Browns try to avoid falling to 0-3 as they take on the Miami Dolphins on the road. To help preview the Week 3 contest, I reached out to Kevin Nogle from The Phinsider and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!
Chris: “The Dolphins and Browns are each off to an 0-2 start. How much of that do you attribute to quarterback Ryan Tannehill? His contract extension from 2015 will see his 2017 cap hit jump up to $20 million a year. What do you expect of Tannehill's future with the Dolphins?”
Kevin: “Tannehill still is a question mark that has to be answered this year. He is starting to show a better grasp on Adam Gase's offense and Tannehill will take charge of the offense and get it moving. That said, the offense has come out stagnant in the first-half of the first two games, something that Tannehill (and Gase) have to solve. A lot of people have added the complaint that Tannehill only gets stats in "garbage time," But Miami has lost by two points in Week 1 and a touchdown in Week 2, so there really has not been "garbage time," so much as Tannehill taking the offense and willing it into a rhythm.
Tannehill's future is still to be determined. My guess is, the team continues with him as their quarterback after he continues to become more comfortable with the offense over the course of this year. If this year does not seem like Tannehill is progressing or that he is struggling with the offense, then I would not be surprised if the team looked to draft a quarterback early in the Draft this year, but I think Adam Gase having confidence in Tannehill, designing the offense to Tannehill's strengths, and Tannehill being given more freedom to actually run the offense this year rather than just having to execute the plays that are called, will allow the team to see the quarterback they thought they were getting when they drafted Tannehill.”
Chris: “Through two games, the Dolphins leading rusher is Ryan Tannehill, as Arian Foster has been limited to just 16 carries for 47 yards (2.9 YPC). Why has it been so far to get Foster touches, and do you think he'll play this Sunday? Are the Dolphins a bad run blocking team?”
Kevin: “Injury concerns - and an actual injury (groin) - have led to the Dolphins deliberately controlling the number of carries Foster receives early this year. It was like they were putting him on a pitch count early in the season in an effort to avoid an injury. Of course, he was injured anyway with a groin issue that sidelined him for most of the Patriots game last week. He has not practiced this week, and despite the team saying he is "day-to-day" and that Foster is a "veteran" giving the team "more options" when it comes to being able to play him with little to no practice in a week, I think he will not be on the field this week. The Dolphins complete their "Ohio series" next Thursday with a trip to Cincinnati, so my guess is they sit Foster this week, then play him on Thursday, rather than rushing him back and then have only four days to get him ready for the next game.
As for the offensive line, I think they are better pass protectors at this point than run blockers. The team is basically using four tackles on the line, with rookie Laremy Tunsil playing left guard and veteran Jermon Bushrod at right guard, along with left tackle Branden Albert and right tackle Ja'Wuan James. That allows for some solid protection on passing downs (though Tunsil and Bushrod will both make a few mistakes still as they get used to their new positions - and Tunsil adjusts to the NFL game), but there is not a lot of pulling ability coming out of the guard positions. That will probably improve when Mike Pouncey comes back at center, because he pulls incredibly well and can get into the second level fairly easily, but for now, the run blocking is still a work in progress.”
Chris: “Former Browns tight end Jordan Cameron seemed to have a pretty poor first season with the club in 2015. Has he been a disappointment since arriving in Miami?”
Kevin: “Cameron has been disappointing, but some of it probably was not his fault. The Dolphins in 2015 were forced to use the tight ends as sixth offensive linemen, rather than as a pass receiver. They were forced into a blocking role way more than anyone expected, and it cost Cameron in the stat line. This year, the Dolphins appear to want to get the tight ends more involved in the passing game, especially with the offensive line getting better at pass blocking, but Cameron has had an issue with his hands throughout the preseason and over the past two weeks. He just seemed to have forgotten how to catch the ball, with seemingly every pass thrown to him either being a drop or an incompletion.
That said, Cameron did come away with some good plays in the second half of the Patriots game, catching five passes for 49 yards including a touchdown pass Tannehill threw through three defenders and Cameron had to drop down and catch just off the ground. It was a really good play, and, hopefully, a sign that Cameron has figured out whatever was causing the problems and will start to turn into the tight end Miami needs him to be.”
Chris: “Is there an area of vulnerability on the Dolphins' offensive line.”
Kevin: “Obviously, we already talked about the run blocking not necessarily being the strength of the team. In pass blocking, attack the middle of the line. Tunsil and Bushrod will make mistakes occasionally, and center Anthony Steen, who is playing fairly well, is only in his third game as a center. If you over-pressure the middle of the line, you can find some free rushers getting into Tannehill's face. The Dolphins have been doing a good job lately of trying to move Tannehill around some, or use Tannehill's running ability to pick up yards and exploit the aggressiveness of the defense. The line gave up no sacks last week, but did give up five sacks to the Seahawks in Week 1. They are definitely not perfect, but they are getting better.”
Chris: “The Browns are starting rookie quarterback Cody Kessler this week out of necessity, and one would think that Cleveland will try to run the ball a lot against the Dolphins' lower-ranked defense. Can you pin the blame on any one position/unit as to why Miami's run defense hasn't been the best over the past couple of seasons?”
Kevin: “I think it has been several different things, and it has been frustrating. The defensive line should be stout against the run, but they are not always able to plug the holes - especially when Ndamukong Suh is not on the field - up the middle. Sweep plays expose the linebackers as well, with them not necessarily flowing laterally as well as they should. This year seems to be starting to see a little bit better reactions from the linebackers, but it is clearly not good enough yet. Miami has also transitioned to playing much more ‘Wide 9’ technique this year, spreading the defensive ends outside of the tight end position on the offensive line, in an effort to create better pass rush. In that sense, it seems to have worked well, but it does create more pressure on the run defense. If the linebackers are not in the right position, there will absolutely be a hole that a running back can expose.
Add in the frustration of Miami not tackling well, and the run defense might be the weakest part of the team right now.”
Thanks again to Kevin for taking the time to answer my questions.