From The Other Side

To get the lowdown on the Dolphins' upcoming opponent, the Cleveland Browns, we checked in with Orange and Brown Report's Dave Kolonich. He shared his thoughts on quarterback Colt McCoy, running back Peyton Hillis and the Cleveland defense, among other things.

Q: How much optimism is there in Cleveland that the Browns actually can compete with the Steelers and Ravens in the AFC North this year, and how realistic are those hopes?

Dave Kolonich: The level of optimism certainly rose after last week's Indianapolis win. Against Cincinnati in Week 1, the Browns resembled the worst qualities of the Eric Mangini era (i.e., couldn't finish games, overly conservative offense). However, neither team truly served as a good test of how far the 2011 Browns can go. It will be interesting to see how the Cleveland secondary responds to a pass-happy Dolphins attack guided by Brian Daboll.

Q: Has Colt McCoy shown he can become a franchise quarterback?

Kolonich: For some Browns fans, McCoy can't show anything until he wins multiple Super Bowl titles. Realistic Browns fans realize that he is limited physically, but possesses an excellent feel for the game and reportedly is a wonderful leader. Against Indianapolis, McCoy flashed some brilliant ability to escape pressure and make plays on the run. As for the "franchise" question, the rest of the roster needs to be built up before any true evaluations of McCoy are made.

Q: Is there any reason to fear the Browns offense if Peyton Hillis is held in check?

Kolonich: Hillis didn't get going in Week 2 until the second half. So far in 2011, the Browns' offense has started out slow, then made some big second-quarter plays. In each game, they held a fourth-quarter lead. Possibly because Pat Shurmur is still trying to figure out the tone of both play-calling and coaching, Hillis' identity hasn't fully emerged. However, (to answer your question), Hillis' running can set up downfield plays for Mohamed Massaquoi and underneath or swing plays for Greg Little and Joshua Cribbs. Benjamin Watson remains a reliable underneath option.

Q: How have the Browns adjusted to the change in their defense from a 3-4 to a 4-3?

Kolonich: The run defense was gashed against Cincinnati and had some tough moments against Indianapolis. However, the run defense was excellent in red zone situations last week. The switching of end spots between Jabaal Sheard and Jayme Mitchell seemed to help both the run and pass defense. At DT, both Phil Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin have played well. Rubin in particular seems energized by the switch away from the 3-4. Also, D'Qwell Jackson is healthy again and has been a tackling machine.

Q: What defensive players should the Dolphins be wary of on Sunday?

Kolonich: Besides Taylor and Rubin (and Jackson), it will depend on which corner lines up on Brandon Marshall's side of the field. In shorter spaces, Sheldon Brown could prove a worthy physical cover man. However, Joe Haden is emerging as one of the AFC's best corners through two weeks (minus the Cincy gaffe). Also, T.J. Ward was asked to cover more against Indianapolis and played well. Of course, his physical play and hitting defines him.


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