Nearly eight months to the day after Rob Chudzinski was hired to be the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, he will lead the team out of the tunnel at FirstEnergy Stadium Sunday for the 2013 regular-season opener against the Miami Dolphins.
And the Toledo native and former Browns assistant is expecting an exciting day of football Sunday.
“Finally, here we are, game week,” Chudzinski said Wednesday. “We’re excited about this week for a number of reasons. Firstly, up to this point, we’ve really been a roster, and now, it’s really the first time that we have our team together and are becoming a team. This is our team.
“I’m excited about opening up in FirstEnergy Stadium. I know it’s going to be rocking. It’ll be great to see the fans again and get them out there. It’s going to be an electric atmosphere. We’re excited about the opportunity to play the Dolphins. They’re a very good football team from last year, and made a lot of offseason moves to improve their team. It’s going to be a great challenge for us. We’re looking forward to that and can’t wait to get out there on the field.”
Tannehill proved to be a dual-threat quarterback, as he gained 211 yards and rushed for two touchdowns on 49 carries.
“There’s some things we’ll have to prepare for from that standpoint,” Chudzinski said of Miami’s offense. “They have a talented, young quarterback in Tannehill, and you can really see the growth and the progress he made over the course of last season, as well as the preseason. He’s playing some of his best ball.”
While the Browns’ defense looks to neutralize Tannehill and prevent him from getting the ball downfield to wide receivers Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson, the offense will be contending with a defense capable of generating pressure.
Last year, the Dolphins had 42 sacks, an average of nearly three per game, and much of that pressure came from a front seven that only got stronger with the drafting of defensive end Dion Jordan back in April.
“Defensively, it’s an outstanding unit,” Chudzinski said. “Their defensive line is excellent. They have a number of guys that are top-notch players. Everybody knows about Cameron Wake. (Paul) Soliai is a force in the middle, and Dion Jordan is going to be back for our game as well. It’ll be a big challenge for us up front.
“They have very active linebackers, and they went out and shored up their secondary. In all three phases, there’s significant challenges for us, and we’re preparing to meet those challenges this week.”
When Gene Hackman’s character in the movie Hoosiers spoke with his team prior to a playoff game, he mentioned to them that there is a tradition not to talk about the next game until you have played the previous one. Chudzinski is adopting a similar approach as the Browns prepare for the Dolphins.
“The key is the approach, the one-game approach that we’re talking about,” Chudzinski said. “This game is the most important game we’re playing this week, and we’ve talked to our guys all along about every segment, everything we’re doing is the most important thing at that particular time.
“Whether it’s OTAs, whether it’s minicamp, whether it’s training camp, whatever the practice is, whatever the meeting is, that’s the most important thing. That’s the focus, and that’s the only way I know how to do it.”
Sunday’s game features a match-up of second-year quarterbacks in Tannehill and Browns signal-caller
“The first year, a lot of guys just don’t know the difference, and there’s a huge difference between college and the pros, so going through that year, learning about that, how to prepare, what it really takes to be successful, I think they have a much better grasp,” Chudzinski said. “Being in a system, going through, understanding the system a little bit better typically helps as well.”
ADDING TO THE ROSTER
Since they trimmed the roster down to the league-mandated 53-man limit last Saturday, the Browns added six players through waivers -- tight ends
“We have a core group of guys, and the group is the group we’re going to lean on to win the game,” Chudzinski said. “We added some new guys. We’ll get those guys up to speed and have to get those guys ready to play in a short amount of time. Our coaches will do a great job with that. It gave us an opportunity to look at some other guys that our scouts had pinpointed as potential guys to help us. We’ll have them ready to play by Sunday.”