Cleveland Browns (0-2) @ Miami Dolphins (0-2)
Sunday September 25, 2016 – 1:00 PM EST, Hard Rock Stadium
Betting Line: Dolphins -10
Football is a lot like chess. Most everyone gets the gist of it, but very few understand what’s going on between the lines (pun somewhat intended.) I listened to podcasts all week and I heard the same narrative. The discussion for the Colts was about how the defense and running game is holding Andrew Luck back. In New Orleans and Oakland, they are losing because of the defense.
So what is the problem in Miami? That damn Ryan Tannehill, duh! Despite a second half stretch where he was 20 for 21 with 256 yards and a touchdown pass it was not the defense that is second to last in stopping the run, gets chastised.
I’ve gotten to the point where I’m not going to let it bother me anymore. People create agendas and stuff the evidence in to fit those agendas. Andrew Luck will get “the defense and O-line is bad” excuse when the Colts lose and Ryan Tannehill will shoulder blame when Miami goes down despite playing well.
He’s our quarterback, he’s a damn good one, and he’s getting even better.
Speaking of quarterbacks, how about the one the Dolphins are facing this week? Cody Kessler had a lot of issues with Pac 12 defenses at USC, and now he gets one that’s about as good as the Stanford Cardinal D.
It’s difficult to apply the film from the two games the Browns to their match-up in Miami, but I’ll do my best to dissect what Cleveland might do with the rookie.
As you scour the snap count list of the Browns, you see a bunch of names and wonder who they are. I feel like the construction worker sitting in the diner before his shift reading the paper of the Cleveland Indians opening day roster in the classic movie ‘Major League.’
After watching the game against Baltimore, it’s obvious why this team is unanimously picked to finish in the cellar of the AFC North.
They started hot with a 20 points to begin the game, but there were breakdowns by the Baltimore offense and defense that any team should be able to take advantage of.
One player that flashes off tape for the Browns, however, is Corey Coleman. He’s an exceptional route runner that wins off the line with quickness and acceleration. He is the most exciting player Cleveland has had since Braylon Edwards big 2007 season (sans Josh Gordon.)
With Josh McCown and Bob Griffin, the Browns wanted to run the ball and push it up the field in the passing game. I have to imagine there will be much more safe throws put in for the rookie, Kessler, as they look to work the soft underneath areas of the field.
Seattle tried this without the threat of a vertical game and it didn’t bode well. The offensive line has issues much like Seattle’s did. Cameron Irving, who has been a bust for the most part, will likely miss the game on an already weak offensive line. Right guard Austin Pasztor was a focal point of the ground game running power off his right guard gap and using a lot of traps and pulls to the left side. This week, he gets Ndamukong Suh along with a new center with minimal experience so the Browns are going to have to adapt their plan offensively.
Christian Kirksey and Demario Davis are probably the best players on the defense and they are interesting to watch. They move in tandem most of the time like the pieces on a foosball table.
The entire defense plays read and react and they often read wrong. Baltimore used some play pass and the backers were all three steps up field before turning around in sync to see they were beat by intermediate crossing routes.
Jamar Taylor (remember him?) was torched on Sunday playing off coverage, just like he did here, letting everything under the sun get caught in front of him. Joe Haden plays a similar technique in man so the underneath stuff should be wide open.
In that read and react scheme, the safeties are often slow. Ryan Tannehill is slowly becoming a master of this offense and can use his eyes to relocate defenders. This should be a huge day for the Dolphins passing game if they can take care of one thing:
Picking up blitzes.
The Browns want to stunt and delay their blitzes into occupied gaps. With the ability the Dolphins have on the perimeter, it would make sense to keep in max protection and let the wide outs win one-on-ones. Running backs will have their hands full with blitz pickup and need to be able to sneak out for some easy receiving yardage behind the linebackers.
The Browns don’t get a lot of pressure from the front four, especially with their best pass rusher, Carl Nassib, slated to miss the game. It’ll be vital for Anthony Steen and Laremy Tunsil to get their communication down and correctly identify which gaps are being blitzed.
If the Dolphins get any semblance of a running game going, this one will be over quickly. The ability to get the Browns off balance with misdirection and play action is somewhat comical.
The screen offense that I vehemently was against in the New England game should be featured in this game. The Browns don’t tackle on the edge well and play soft the majority of the game.
It was extremely difficult to find five crucial match-ups in this game because the Browns, frankly, don’t have many good players. This game should be simple, but it almost never is with this franchise, so here are your five crucial match-ups:
1.) Cristian Kirksey and DeMario Davis vs. Miami Tailbacks –
Kirksey and Davis never come off the field and they play downhill quite well. They each have no interest in coverage so max protecting with tight ends and chips with the backs with a late release will be a very simple way to pick up chunk yardage in the short passing game. Kenyan Drake needs a TON of work in the passing game this week.
2.) Reshad Jones vs. Isaiah Crowell –
The Browns are going to create running lanes against this defense. They are a power inside team and the Dolphins are built to stop teams that threaten the edges. However, with Cody Kessler in the game, Reshad Jones should play the entire game near the line of scrimmage. Crowell is going to be one-on-one in the hole with Jones a lot and I’d be surprised if he wins even one of those battles.
3.) Mario Williams vs Joe Thomas –
If Williams beats Thomas even a couple of times and gets to the blind side of Cody Kessler, this game will be a nightmare for the Browns. He’s already going to have a million things to process in his first career start, but dealing with an edge rush will complicate things tenfold. I don’t expect Mario to win this, but if he does, the Browns have no shot.
4.) Austin Pasztor vs. Ndamukong Suh –
Suh is going to beat a lot of combination and solo blocks the Browns try to throw at him because that’s what he does. Crowell is going to have to put his nose down and grind out some tough yardage. Even the Miami linebackers should have some chances to make plays as the Browns stick between the tackles and look to spring big runs from the inside.
5.) Corey Coleman vs. Byron Maxwell –
I’m going to be called a blind homer for saying this, but this should go in Miami’s favor. If Maxwell can play up close and challenge Kessler to take shots over his head, this plays right into the Miami defense. If not, Coleman will win underneath all game and keep the Browns in the game. No facet of the Cleveland passing game should work on Sunday – none. It’s inconceivable to think they can have any success even if it’s against a bad Miami secondary.
(editor’s note: Corey Coleman broke his hand at practice today and is OUT against Miami. Good Lord. Does Cleveland even have enough healthy players? Show up early, and YOU might get to play for Cleveland in this game)
There is no reason this game shouldn’t be a complete destruction. The Dolphins lost by a combined nine points to two of the toughest teams in the NFL. Despite the porous defense last game, that’s still something the team can build on.
But it’s time to be done with moral victories. The Dolphins need to establish a big lead in this game and start getting players off the field to rest before the quick turnaround to Cincinnati on Thursday night. Ideally, the Dolphins would do to Cleveland what was done to Miami by the Patriots – blow the doors off early.
And quite honestly, anything less is unacceptable.
I will, as always, be live tweeting this game @Travis_Writes
You can contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Check out the podcast next week as I join Sam for the Cleveland post game wrap and a Cincinnati preview.