Browns-Dolphins: Greg's Game Preview

The 2-3 Browns face off against the winless Miami Dolphins this Sunday. Does the match-up bode well or poorly for the Browns? Greg Hensley examines the key factors which will determine this weekend's contest...

Dolphins Offense

The Dolphins offense resembles the Browns offense due to Rob Chudzinski tutelage under Dolphins head coach Cam Cameron but the Dolphins offense currently reminds me of the pre-Chud era. There is simply no chemistry within this offense.

While many Browns fans are ready for the Brady Quinn era to begin, an equal amount of Dolphin fans are ready to see what rookie quarterback John Beck can bring to the table. The BYU quarterback could see hear his name called this week if Cleo Lemon struggles. Veteran Trent Green was lost last week due to yet another concussion but his play thus far is one of the reasons the Dolphins are sporting an 0-5 record. If Lemon struggles early do not be surprised to see Beck make his debut. He is a tough kid with a good arm and the ability to lead.

The one area the Dolphins have locked down is the running back position. Ronnie Brown is simply playing at a higher level than any running back in the National Football League. The only thing holding him back is the lack of any passing attack and a defense that isn't able to get anyone off the field. If the Dolphins are to have any chance at pulling the upset, the Dolphins must give Ronnie Brown more than 30 rushing attempts. Brown reminds me a great deal of the young Jamal Lewis. He has the size and tremendous power, but he has that balance along with break away speed that makes him virtually unstoppable during the game. Ronnie gets stronger as the game wears on but due to playing from behind, he has been taken out of this offense when he is at his best.

The Dolphins offensive line is very one-dimensional. They struggle to protect the quarterback but they do a good job of trapping and sealing which allows Brown to have his success running the ball. I have been very impressed with the Dolphins rookie center Samson Satele. He is very athletic but extremely powerful with his leg drive as he is able to push much larger men into the lap of the linebackers. Tackles LJ Shelton and Vernon Carey struggle with speed the speed end that possesses flexibility. They will have their hands full with the Browns speedy outside linebackers.

The Dolphins receiving corps is in dire need for a go-to threat to emerge. Former Buckeye Ted Ginn Jr. was brought in to add speed and explosion to this offense but thus far he is struggling to gain separation in a timely manner. This is the reason he has but 2 receptions. Veteran Chris Chambers is still a receiving threat but he is more of a number 2 receiver than the number one option. Look for the Dolphins to place Ginn in the slot to create a one on one situation with the struggling Browns safeties.
 

Browns Defense

The Browns run defense hasn't been able to stop anyone and their pass defense simply breaks down at key moments. The Browns have issues with simply wrapping up their man at first contact. This should improve as they will have plenty of practice this week trying to bring down Ronnie Brown. The key will be in how well the inside backers slide to fill the gap.

The only time we see this defense really step up is on the rare occasion when they mix things up and bring the blitz. Those occasions are few and far between as the bend-and-eventually-break defense is in place. I would love to see this team use the run blitz towards the quarterback to get pressure in the pocket. The vanilla approach just doesn't seem to inspire fans nor players. It was once said that the blitz is a desperation move and this defense is indeed desperate but more importantly it is boring to watch as teams methodically move the chains on 14 play drives.

There are some bright spots for the Browns defense. Rookie corner Eric Wright has put together back--to back performances that have been a pleasure to watch. He gave Randy Moss fits last week as he spent most of the game in one on one coverage against one of the NFL's elite receivers.

Robaire Smith is also proving to be the Browns best free agent acquisition. He has been the lone bright spot on the Browns struggling defensive line. Robaire will force the double team and is also finding a way to hold down his side of the line on a rather consistent basis and occasionally slip the double to provide pressure in the pocket.


Browns Offense

The hottest receiver in football may very well be Braylon Edwards. Braylon is a human highlight reel this season as he simply makes the unbelievable catch over and over. Not only has Braylon cured his case of the dropsies, he is quietly becoming a leader on and off the field. He is simply letting his play speak for itself. This week he will find himself matched up against former Brown Michael Lehan. This should be a very exciting battle to watch.

The Browns offensive line has been very effective in providing the quarterback with a solid pocket. Last week, that pocket showed several holes in it. Part of the struggle was replacing Kevin Shaffer with Ryan Tucker at right tackle. Tucker is no longer a starting caliber tackle in this league. He can still be very effective at right guard but his pass protection simply isn't on the same level with Shaffer.

Another concern last week was the lack of communication amongst the interior of the line. It wasn't that the individual player was beaten by the Patriots but the lack of communication resulted in sacks and hit on the quarterback as often the guard and tackle would be blocking the same man and allowing the remaining defender a free run at the quarterback. If this doesn't improve quickly, it may hurry up the recovery process of center LeCharles Bentley.

Derek Anderson may not be the most accurate quarterback and he does make some very bad decisions but one thing you have to say about this kid is that he plays with confidence in his own ability. He doesn't allow those mistakes to make him afraid to throw the football, which is something we have not seen in some time. Anderson can become a good NFL quarterback but he must learn to be a bit more patient and settle down before his throw. When his feet are moving, he loses all of his accuracy. He needs a solid week to hold off Brady Quinn. With the bye week coming up there will be a lot of Brady Quinn talk in Cleveland.

Kellen Winslow will have a huge game this week. Former Steeler Joey Porter has been looking to rekindle old rivalries and this time Winslow is on a team good enough to silence the outspoken linebacker. Look for Winslow to exploit the young safeties and also the slower linebackers of the Dolphins.

It is unlikely Jamal Lewis will be ready to play this week. If Lewis is out, look for Jerome Harrison to finally make the active roster this year. His speed will be needed against this defense that is very slow to fill the gaps. Also use of the counter trey this week could pay off huge. This is where the running back fakes going one direction, and then cuts it back the other way, following the pulling guard and tackle as the rest of the line seal the back side of the run. If the Browns can get Steinbach and Thomas pulling against the slower (but high pressure) defense of the Dolphins, huge gains can be made.


Dolphins Defense

The Dolphins run a bit of a hybrid 3-4/4-3 defense. Their defense simply has too much talent to play the way they have thus far. They are similar to the Browns in that lack of discipline is one of the issues plaguing this team. They aren't maintaining gap integrity and are prone to abandoning their responsibility especially when misdirection is involved.

Jason Taylor is one of those elite pass rushers that can take over a game. The match up between Taylor and rookie Joe Thomas should be a great learning experience for the rookie. The winner of this battle could very well decide this game.

Joey Porter, Channing Crowder and Zach Thomas make up one of the most physical linebacking corps in football. Browns fullback Lawrence Vickers will have his hands full this week as Thomas is one of the most difficult linebackers to locate and eliminate in football. He has a knack for sprinting through the hole without squaring his body until he finds the running back. This doesn't give the lead blocker a huge target and the blows are often glancing. Keeping Thomas in check is vital in this one.

Joey Porter looks slow. He hasn't been the same player since he left Pittsburgh. When he blitzes, he isn't getting the corner as quickly as he should and that is leaving a huge running lane from the spot he just vacated. Look for the Browns to challenge Porter early and often in this one.

The Dolphins secondary is somewhat shaky. Former Browns, Michael Lehan is having a good year for the Dolphins. Lehan is long and lanky and he can be very difficult to throw on due to his leaping ability. He will be in for a very tough battle with Braylon Edwards.

Look for the Browns to challenge Travis Daniels quite often this week. He is entering his 3rd year but he is inexperienced and similar to Brodney Pool, he is slow to react in coverage to what is happening in front of him. Also Renaldo Hill is known for being vulnerable in coverage. They will have their hands full this week with Kellen Winslow.

Special Teams

Browns punter Dave Zastudil will make his return this week as the Browns released veteran Scott Player. Josh Cribbs is having a pro bowl caliber year in the return game but he could find himself more and more involved in this offense especially as the slot receiver.


Final Analysis

This game could very well be the battle of run vs. pass as the Dolphins will attempt to pound it out on the Browns while the Browns attempt to throw all over the porous Dolphins defense. The Browns will look to finish this one early in order to take the Dolphins out of their run game.  This is a must win game for both teams.


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