The ineptitude continues
It seems the Miami Dolphins, who entertain the Browns Sunday down in Florida, have encountered similar problems to their visitors thus far this season.
The Dolphins’ defense surrenders way too much yardage, can’t stop the run and has trouble getting off the field on third down, and an offense that can’t run the ball, protect its quarterback or remain on the field.
The only difference, it seems, will be the uniforms. Otherwise, at least statistically, these teams have taken almost the same winless path in the first two games.
The Dolphins couldn’t hold a 10-6 lead late in the season opener in Seattle and lost in the final 30 seconds. Last Sunday in Foxboro, the Patriots took advantage of three Miami turnovers in their home debut, raced out to a 31-3 lead before the Dolphins caught up and made the 31-24 final look more respectable.
The biggest difference, especially on offense, is the Dolphins are healthier than the Browns. Not by much with running back Arian Foster iffy for the game with a groin injury, but definitely in better shape. If he can’t go, look for Isaiah Pead or Jay Ajayi to start.
(This just in: It’s official. Browns quarterback Josh McCown has a broken left collarbone. It is not a displaced break, which means it’s probably a hairline fracture. It will sideline him indefinitely.)
The Browns, on the other hand, open up with a quarterback making his National Football League debut, a wide receivers corps that can be best described as marginal and a makeshift offensive line due to an injury.
Defensively, the much more experienced Dolphins have an edge, although statistics in the first couple of games belie that. That defense has given up 815 yards, including 457 in the loss to the Pats last week.
The Miami defense includes ends Cameron Wake and Mario Williams and tackles Ndamukong Suh and Jordan Phillips along the line and Kiko Alonso anchoring the linebackers corps. Hard to believe the Dolphins would give up that much yardage with talent like that.
Wake, who terrorized quarterbacks for so many seasons with the Dolphins before suffering an Achilles’ tendon injury midway through last season, has become a part-time player, sharing duties with Andre Branch. That pass rush has produced five sacks. The Browns check in with two, both in the season opener.
The Dolphins, as the Browns, are vulnerable just about everywhere when the opposition is on the field. They surrender about 290 yards a game through the air and about 130 infantry style.
Only problem there is the Cleveland offense is so weak now with a raw rookie at quarterback, an offensive line that does not afford quarterbacks nearly the time they need to be effective and question marks just about everywhere else, it very well could be the tonic the Miami defense needs to feel good about itself.
The Browns average slightly less than 25 minutes a game in ball ownership, while the defense permits the opposition to convert nearly half of its third downs. Hardly a formula for success.
At the beginning of the season, coach Hue Jackson emphasized his offense would be more well balanced than the past few seasons when passing easily outpaced the run game.
Well, the Browns have run 109 plays – a puny total for two games – and ran the ball only 44 times. That’s 40.4% of the time. You can figure out the passing ratio. So where’s the balance?
With Cody Kessler at quarterback now, that run percentage might rise, especially after Isaiah Crowell’s big game against Baltimore last Sunday. Detractors would point out, though, that 85 of Crowell’s season output of 195 yards came on one run. Subtract the 85 and he averages 3.8 yards a carry.
The Browns’ best bet to win this one rests with the defense, especially the secondary. Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill averages one pass every three plays and is accurate on 65% of his passes.
His favorite targets are wideouts Jarvis Landry (17 receptions for 194 yards) and DeVante Parker (eight catches for 106 yards) and former Browns tight end Jordan Cameron (seven grabs for 55 yards and a touchdown).
If the Browns do not get enough penetration against Miami’s average-at-best offensive line, it will be a long afternoon for the backfield. In order to give the secondary a chance, defensive coordinator Ray Horton needs to dial up more blitzes to make Tannehill feel at least somewhat uncomfortable.
That includes occasional run blitzes against a Miami ground game that has produced just 134 yards this season. To give you some idea of just how bad that run game is, Tannehill is the leading rusher with 52 yards on scrambles.
That both teams seek their first victory of the young season tells you all you need to know about the talent level of this game. That this is the Dolphins’ home opener gives rise to the reason they are the league’s only double-digit favorite to win this week. It also tells you how little oddsmakers think of the Browns.
Unless the wheels come completely off for the Browns defensively, this should be a low scoring game. The offense will struggle and force punter Britton Colquitt to more than earn his salary.
Both teams are coming off games they registered three-touchdown explosions within a small time frame. The Browns early against Baltimore; the Dolphins late against New England.
That won’t happen Sunday. The Dolphins’ defense puts together an effort similar to the season-opening loss in Seattle and throttles a weak Cleveland offense all afternoon, limiting it to 185 yards and only 11 first downs. An ineffective Kessler is sacked five times and replaced by Charlie Whitehurst.
Patrick Murray provides the only offense with a couple of field goals as the Browns reach the red zone just twice. (Update: Murray suffered a knee injury Friday and has been placed on injured reserve. The Browns signed Cody Parkey to replace him. He will boot those field goals.)
Tannehill, with little pressure from the Cleveland pass rush, throws touchdown passes to Landry and Cameron and scores on a naked bootleg from a yard out in a game that will, for all practical purposes, be over midway through the third quarter. Make it:
Dolphins 24, Browns 6