Browns-Dolphins: Five keys

Posted Sep 6, 2013

Browns Senior Editor Vic Carucci breaks down the five keys for Sunday’s season-opener against the Dolphins.

>>The Browns’ attack-oriented defense has its sights set on taking advantage of a Dolphins offensive line that appears to be a question mark. Other than center Mike Pouncey, who is among the NFL’s best at his position, and Richie Incognito, who is one of the league’s tougher guards, the Dolphins aren’t exactly sure what they have up front. They’re counting on 2012 second-round pick Jonathan Martin to replace Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long. Tyson Clabo is solid at right tackle, but John Jerry’s knee injury could make the other guard spot a problem.

>>It is more imperative for the Browns’ pass rush to dominate because of the potential for their secondary to be weakened by the shoulder injury cornerback Buster Skrine suffered in practice on Thursday, causing him to show up on Friday’s injury report as questionable. The Browns already had depth concerns at the position, and one of the biggest is that rookie Leon McFadden, who has had his struggles adjusting to the NFL game, could be thrust into a critical role as a nickel back. The Dolphins undoubtedly will frequently target McFadden in their passing game.

>>The Browns’ No. 1 concern has to be with the Dolphins’ No. 1 strength: their defensive line. This group is loaded with talent and depth. The Browns’ offensive line will face a huge challenge in trying to keep Brandon Weeden upright and opening holes for Trent Richardson. The Dolphins will look to wear down the Browns’ blockers by using waves of defensive linemen, especially at end where they have a Pro Bowler in Cameron Wake and another talented player in Olivier Vernon.

>>In Miami, there are sky-rocketing expectations for second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The consensus among many Dolphins fans is that Tannehill will make major strides this season, particularly because the team got him some game-breaking weapons in the offseason, including speedy wide receiver Mike Wallace. However, the Browns’ defense should generate a strong enough pass rush to rattle Tannehill, who only made 19 career college starts and had some struggles with interceptions and making reads during training camp.

>>Brandon Weeden and the rest of the Browns’ passing game will face a revamped Dolphins secondary. After finishing near the bottom of the NFL in pass defense last season, while giving up many big plays, the Dolphins dumped their top three cornerbacks. Their best addition has been Pro Bowler Brent Grimes. Former Brown Dimitri Patterson, who joined Miami late last season, was impressive during the preseason. However, he is questionable for the game with an ankle injury. Reshad Jones and Chris Clemons are solid safeties. But the Browns could have success challenging the Dolphins’ secondary depth.

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