The following four facets of Sunday's game at Miami will be key toward whether or not the Browns are able to travel back to Berea with their first win of the Hue Jackson era.
Kessler: 'Play the game'
Rookie Cody Kessler wasn't expecting to take the reins as starting quarterback this early in his career, and neither were the Browns, but it's been their collective task to prepare themselves for a big challenge Sunday in Miami. [
Kessler has taken pride in his preparation, logging long hours day and night in the Browns facility as he prepares for his NFL debut. Both Kessler and his teammates have said this is the way he's been all season, even when he was third-string behind Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown.
It's how Kessler will respond in the moment, and how those players respond around him, that will determine how well Cleveland can play in the face of adversity.
"He had a lot of characteristics that we liked, and he needs to display those this weekend. I think he will," Browns coach Hue Jackson said. "As I have said before, I know a lot of us make it about Cody, it is really about our team. In order for Cody to play well, his team around him has to play well offensively, defensively, and special teams. It will not just be him. He just has to do his part to the best of his ability."
Who steps up at WR, DB and DL?
The injury bug has been active at more than just quarterback this week in Berea.
The Browns are down at least five starters Sunday and there's a chance defensive back Joe Haden (groin) could be sidelined as well. Those absences will provide big opportunities at a number of spots for players who have only seen the field sparingly through the first two weeks of the season.
At wide receiver, veteran Andrew Hawkins is expected to take on the lion's share of snaps in place of Corey Coleman (hand), but rookies Rashard Higgins and Ricardo Louis could see an elevation in their activity as a chain reaction.
"They brought me in here for a reason," Higgins said. "That was to showcase what I can do on the field. Obviously, if somebody goes down, then it is my turn to come in so I'm just going to do what I can do and showcase my best of my ability."
At defensive back, rookie Derrick Kindred, who saw extensive work in last week's game, is slotted to replace safety Ibraheim Campbell (hamstring). If Haden can't play, veteran Tramon Williams Sr. is an option and so, too, is rookie Tracy Howard.
On the defensive line, where Cleveland will be without Carl Nassib (hand), rookie Tyrone Holmes, who created pressure during his 10 snaps last week, could be in for an increase of work.
Brave the elements
It's been unseasonably warm in Northeast Ohio for months, but it will be a different kind of heat and humidity at Hard Rock Stadium. Temperature projections are in the mid-80s with a heat index in the mid-90s for Sunday's 1 p.m. kickoff.
This game was pegged as a reason why the Browns engaged in joint practices with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last month, and Cleveland's coaches plan to adjust accordingly throughout the game based on how the players respond a month later.
"We will really play probably everybody that does have a hat and definitely whether it is between special teams and defense, everybody will play for us," defensive coordinator Ray Horton said.
Bottling up Miami's playmakers
Miami hasn't picked up a win yet, but it's caused problems for opposing defensive backfields through the first two weeks of the season.
The young wide receiver trio of Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills will be the toughest to date Cleveland has faced this season. They combined for 20 receptions, 282 yards and two touchdowns in last week's loss to the Patriots.
The Browns are allowing 286 passing yards per game, which ranks 22nd in the league, and have surrendered two touchdown passes in each of the first two games.
"I think there is going to be a lot of people watching what those guys do," Williams said. "They are 0-2 just like us but a lot of ability over there, a lot of ability over there. Like I always say, each and every week that is the team that we have to prepare for – we have to prepare for the team that we could potentially get, not the team whose record is 0-2."