One by one, ClevelandBrowns.com is breaking down each of the Browns' 2016 regular season opponents as the dog days of the offseason unfold. Today's preview heads to the AFC East and a new-look Dolphins team hoping to snap a postseason drought.
Who: Miami Dolphins
When: Sept. 27
Where: Miami Dolphins Stadium
Series history (last meeting): 8-8 (Miami 23, Browns 10, 2013 at FirstEnergy Stadium)
The coach: Adam Gase (first season)
The stakes:For the Browns — who play five of their first seven games on the road — a trip to Miami is another test for a new-look team under head coach Hue Jackson. Cleveland hasn't played the Dolphins in South Florida since 2010 (a 13-10 win) and the Browns are 4-1 in the series since 2005. To be sure, a Miami team loaded with talent on both sides of the ball will present a challenge for Jackson and Co.
Matchup to watch:Miami's WRs vs. Cleveland's DBs
If there's one position group that's been a strength in South Beach, it's Miami's receivers. Led by Jarvis Landry (1,157 yards, four touchdowns), the unit figures to keep trending up as DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills grow and develop. Meanwhile, the Browns boast a secondary that currently features 19 members — including Pro Bowlers Joe Haden and Tramon Williams — and a bevy of younger players looking to secure playing time. Not to mention, Cleveland acquired former Texans/Broncos safety Rahim Moore and former Dolphins cornerback Jamar Taylor in the offseason, two players expected to compete for key roles on a defense led by Ray Horton.
Offseason storyline: Much like the Browns, the Dolphins enter 2016 with a new head coach in Gase, a new coaching staff and a handful of new players after the likes of DE Olivier Vernon, RB Lamar Miller and CB Brent Grimes parted ways with Miami.
Biggest addition:DE Mario Williams. The former Buffalo Bill had a somewhat disappointing season in 2015, but there's little doubt Williams has the athletic ability and skills to be one of the top players at his position in the entire league.
Biggest loss:Olivier Vernon. He had 7.5 sacks and was a key cog on the defensive line along with Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake. The Dolphins should be able to figure out a way to match his production, but Vernon was a special talent nearing his prime.
The star:DL Ndamukong Suh. The four-time Pro Bowler remains one of the NFL's best defensive lineman despite somewhat of a statistical drop off during his first year in South Florida.
The X-Factor: QB Ryan Tannehill. The former Texas A&M standout has put up big numbers in his first four seasons with the Dolphins (including more than 8,000 passing yards in 2014 and 2015) but he's struggled taking care of the football. Tannehill has tossed 54 interceptions since he was drafted to Miami in 2012, a figure Gase — who's known for his work with quarterbacks — and the coaching staff will look to improve.
What makes them tough:Across the board, the Dolphins have the talent to be a playoff contender (whether or not they make the postseason, of course, remains to be seen). That said, the general consensus is that Gase could potentially get the team's moving parts to act as one next season — something neither Joe Philbin or 2015 interim nor Dan Campbell could in recent years.
What makes them beatable:As mentioned earlier, Tannehill has struggled when it comes to turnovers. If the Browns and their get-after-the-quarterback approach on defense has success, Cleveland will put itself in a good position to have a chance at winning the game come September. The Dolphins also still have to replace Grimes, a Pro Bowler and their top cornerback.