Game Preview: Miami at Cleveland

The Dolphins take to the road for the first time on Sunday when they travel to Cleveland looking for their first victory of the season. In the Browns, they face a team coming off a victory over the Indianapolis Colts. We break down the matchup from every possible angle.

WHO: Miami Dolphins (0-2) at Cleveland Browns (1-1)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

SITE: Cleveland Browns Stadium

SURFACE: Natural grass

TV: CBS, Don Criqui, Randy Cross


KEYS TO THE GAME: The Dolphins are glad to be hopping a plane given their 6-2 road record last season -- and 1-11 mark in their last 12 at home. The Browns' evolving ball-control offense is carried by RB Peyton Hillis. The Dolphins' ability to stuff Hillis could depend on LB Karlos Dansby's (groin) availability. QB Colt McCoy has established TEs Ben Watson and Evan Moore — an exploited Dolphins weak spot — as his preferred targets in critical situations. Miami's effort to balance the offense gained traction last week when rookie RB Daniel Thomas rushed for 107 yards. He's a masher to complement Chad Henne's growth in the vertical passing game.

FAST FACTS: The Browns have won three straight in the series. ... Dolphins receivers are averaging 14.0 yards per catch.



Just two games into the season, Miami Dolphins players are already finding themselves defending Coach Tony Sparano amid the team's 0-2 start. Asked whether the team still fully supports Sparano and his coaching staff, veteran linebacker Karlos Dansby gave a quick answer.

"Without a doubt, man," Dansby said. "These guys (are) awesome. There's too much experience in this building not to have confidence in how the coaches have been coaching right now. There's too much experience in the building, man. We've just got to soak it up, got to be sponges, man."

The Dolphins this weekend travel to Cleveland in desperate need of a victory. The game at the Browns marks the beginning of a tough stretch that will have the Dolphins on the road for nearly a month.

They play three consecutive games on the road — at Cleveland, at San Diego and at the New York Jets; though the Dolphins' bye week comes after the San Diego game. Dansby said he and the team's other veterans need to do a better job of leading the Dolphins' less experienced players.

"The guys that have been here for a while, who have been in the game for a while are just trying to show the young guys how it's done," Dansby said. Meanwhile, Jason Taylor, another veteran Dolphins linebacker, expressed disappointment on Thursday that the private team meeting he led became public. Some players shared details of the meeting earlier in the week with reporters.

Taylor led the meeting after the Dolphins' 23-13 defeat against the Texans on Sunday.

"It's a little disturbing that what was talked about in the locker room to begin with was talked about outside of the locker room," Taylor said. "That's a little disappointing to me. There was no media in there so it shouldn't have been public."

Taylor placed the blame for the team's slow start on the players — and not on the coaching staff.

"Coach Sparano is not going to miss a tackle. (Defensive coordinator) Mike Nolan is not going to blow a coverage. (Offensive coordinator Brian) Daboll is not going to throw an interception or do anything wrong on offense. Those guys aren't on the field. "(Owner) Stephen Ross is not on the field ... it's all us. It's as simple as that."


Coach Pat Shurmur second-guessed himself when asked why Montario Hardesty did not touch the ball until early in the fourth quarter in Indianapolis and says that has to change, starting Sunday when the Browns host the Dolphins.

Hardesty sparked the Browns in the second quarter of the opener, rushing for 18 yards on five carries, but against the Colts he carried only three times for a net gain of one yard. He fumbled on his second carry on first and goal from the Colts 4. Joe Thomas recovered the ball.

One more carry by Hardesty gained 2 yards and then Colt McCoy threw an incomplete pass on third down. Phil Dawson kicked a 20-yard field goal for a 17-12 Browns lead. Hardesty was on the field for only two plays earlier.

"I wish we could have gotten him in the game sooner," Shurmur said. "He needs to play. Peyton (Hillis) is a bruising type runner that needs relief at times. That's what we'll try to do a better job of."

Hardesty said he has no lingering pain or problems from the left ACL surgery that kept him out for all of 2010. He wants to play more, but he is not making any demands for the ball. He has not done enough to merit that, and it doesn't fit his personality.

"I just want to do whatever I can to help us win," Hardesty said. "Peyton does a great job. I think we have different running styles and we can keep the defenses off-balance. Peyton does things I can't do and there are things I do well."

Shurmur said Hillis will continue to get the bulk of the carries. Hillis carried 27 times in Indianapolis after getting 17 carries against the Bengals. Hillis rushed for 94 yards, but picked up 24 of them on one carry. He averaged 2.7 yards a carry on the 26 other carries.



-- LB Karlos Dansby said he expects to play on Sunday against the Browns. He suffered a groin injury against the Texans and has been limited in practice all week.

-- CB Vontae Davis continued to sit out practice with a hamstring injury. He hasn't practiced all week since suffering the injury in the loss against the Texans.

-- CB Will Allen could start in Vontae Davis' place on Sunday against the Browns. The Dolphins cut Allen after the preseason but brought him back after a disastrous defensive performance against the Patriots in Week 1.

-- CB Nolan Carroll might start in Vontae Davis' place should he not be able to go. Carroll, a second-year pro out of Maryland, allowed a 23-yard touchdown pass to Andre Johnson in the defeat against the Texans.

-- DE Tony McDaniel continues to sit out practice with a hand injury that he suffered against the Patriots in Week 1. His long-term status is unknown but he isn't expected to play on Sunday.


-- RT Tony Pashos was limited again in practice Thursday. He has not been ruled out for Sunday but Artis Hicks is likely to start against the Dolphins.

-- DE Marcus Benard missed practice Thursday for personal reasons. He is expected to return Friday and play against the Dolphins.

-- LB Titus Brown is no longer in a walking boot but he is not over his sprained ankle and will not play on Sunday.

-- WR Mohamed Massaquoi was limited in practice Thursday with an ankle injury.

-- S Eric Hagg won't play Sunday because he s still recovering from surgery on his left knee.

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