We previewed the trenches between the Browns and the Dolphins, both offensives lines versus the opposing front sevens. Today we complete our game match-up preview by looking at the offensive weapons versus those called to defend them. Each of the weapons are impacted by the quarterback throwing the ball. Instead of matching Ryan Tannehill up against Brandon Weeden we will compare them against each other and then note how the QB could impact the offensive weapon.
Ryan Tannehill versus Brandon Weeden
Both of these were first round picks last year and started their rookie seasons. Tannehill was drafted #8 while Weeden was much lower at #22 so in expectations there was significant difference. Tannehill also was playing for his college head coach as his NFL offensive coordinator while Weeden was switching to a completely different type of offense. Last year Tannehill threw for 3,294 yards on 58.3% passing, with 12 touchdowns against 13 INTs and 5 fumbles for a Total QBR of 50.4. Weeden on the other hand threw for 3,385 yards on 57.4% with 14 touchdowns against 17 INTs and 6 fumbles for a Total QBR of 27.0. The biggest number that stands out is their Total QBR with Tannehill having an extreme advantage. Weeden is now in a more comfortable offense under Norv Turner with more time in the shotgun. Tannehill is in his second season under the same OC. Both QBs have to cut down on their turnovers and complete a higher percentage of their passes. Nationally Tannehill is seen a greater QB, partially due to his age being 4 years younger then Weeden.
Advantage: Miami Dolphins – The Dolphins young QB should continue to improve in his second season. While Weeden has a new system that he is more comfortable in he still has alot to prove and a short time to prove it.
Trent Richardson versus Linebackers
Richardson is expected to be a workhorse this year. The Browns top 2 backup RBs were hurt this pre-season and are out for the year, so Richardson should be expected on the field most of the game. Richardson will be used inside, outside and in the passing game. Richardson has great power and good speed. His vision and cutting skills are defining of his game and outside runs and screens will emphasize such. The Dolphins have a great defensive front 7 and will be a good matchup for Richardson. TRich may have his biggest impact in this game on swing passes and screens. The Dolphins LBs outside of Ellerbe are good in pass coverage as well. Weeden will have a great impact on how well Richardson performs, touch on his short passes is not a strong suite. If he can be found in stride and on target Richardson could open up the games low scoring.
Advantage: Miami Dolphins – Weeden is the deciding factor here. Weeden’s struggle in the passing game will allow the Dolphins to focus on Richardson in the run game and his off line/timed passes could keep his receiving game from being explosive. If Weeden can improve on this the advantage swings.
Lamar Miller versus Linebackers
Miller “won” the RB competition with Daniel Thomas this off-season. Most did not see this as a competition and that it was Miller’s job as long as he doesn’t have fumbling or protection issues. Miller has shown some ability to have a big year. Miller will also have quality backups that Richardson doesn’t which is an advantage to the Dolphins between the 2 running games. The Browns linebacking core has been upgraded with the addition of Paul Kruger, unfortunately first round pick Barkevious Mingo is out for this game. ILB D’Qwell Jackson is a solid pro and OLB Jabaal Sheard has made a good transition from the DE position. ILB Craig Robertson is considered a “star in the making” according to DC Ray Horton. The Browns’ line should be able to keep blockers off the LBs and Kruger, Robertson and Jackson have all shown the ability to succeed in pass coverage.
Advantage: Cleveland Browns – The expectation is this will be a low scoring game and both linebacking cores have advantages over the RB weapons. The defensive scheme of Horton and the infusion of talent makes the Browns a good bet to hold Miller and Thomas in check.
Wide Receivers versus Defensive Backs
Greg Little, Devone Bess and Travis Benjamin versus Brent Grimes, Dimitri Patterson and Nolan Carroll
The Browns will greatly miss the big play, and big size, of Josh Gordon in this game. Little is a strong solid WR who has greatly improved his hands this off-season. Bess, as Dolphins’ fans know, is a great route runner and can make alot of plays in the middle of the field. Benjamin is a slight receiver but is more of a straight line outside receiver. Grimes and Patterson are known by the Browns. Grimes, who reportedly has had a great pre-season, was pursued by the Browns this off-season but chose Miami instead. Patterson was cut by the Browns late last season for a number of reasons. Both could be good enough to shutdown the Browns top 2 receivers but Grimes might of struggled against the size of Gordon.
Advantage: Miami Dolphins – Without Gordon the Browns will struggle in the passing game on the outside. Its possible that they may hit on a big play or two but mostly will be left with underneath passes on the Dolphins secondary. This will allow the Dolphins to blitz more on pass plays.
Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson versus Joe Hadden, Buster Skrine and Leon McFadden
Wallace was one of the biggest FA signings this off-season. While struggling with some injuries he is still a big play WR. Wallace has great speed and will go against a strong CB in Haden. If Haden is shadowing Wallace all night he should not have a big night. Hartline, a breakout last year, and Gibson an import from St. Louis should have a definite advantage over second year Skrine and rookie McFadden. Gibson is a big slot receiver and Hartline provides quality route running all over the field.
Advantage: Miami Dolphins – Haden is the star CB in this matchup but Grimes not signing in Cleveland and the Browns not bringing in any other competition means their 2nd and 3rd CB are limited and young.
Tight Ends versus Safety
Jordan Cameron versus Chris Clemons
Cameron is the next in line for a breakout TE in a Norv Turner/Rob Chudzinski offense. Cameron has shown flashes of being able to make this breakout possible. Cameron, the ex-college basketball player, has the physical athletic gifting to go down the middle of the field, block and run good route. Clemons has played for the Dolphins for 5 years but has not solidified himself as a star. He is adequate in coverage but in the Browns’ offense Cameron should be able to take advantage of him. If so the Dolphins will lose some blitzing capabilities to double Cameron or put a cornerback on him.
Advantage: Cleveland Browns – Clemons is JAG (Just Another Guy) at FS while Cameron has a chance to be a special TE. Expect the Browns’ to use Cameron more with Gordon out of this game
Charles Clay versus TJ Ward
Dustin Keller would be a much tougher matchup for the Browns but his terrible knee injury in pre-season leaves Clay as the starter. Clay, going into his 3rd year, has a total of 34 receptions for a total of 445 yards and 5 TDs. Ward has been a high quality safety and greatly improved his coverage skills. With the Browns front 7 and Ward possibly blitzing expect Clay to spend much of his day blocking, taking 1 receiver out of the patterns.
Advantage: Cleveland Browns – Clay is a blocking TE while Ward could battle for a Pro Bowl spot this year. Keller and Ward are a push so while the Browns don’t have Gordon the Dolphins don’t have Keller which could balance out.
Totals: Today the Dolphins have advantages in 4 areas with the Browns having 3 advantages. In our previous matchup preview of the Offensive Lines and Front 7s the Browns have advantages in both. Based on those advantages the Browns “win” this preview 5 to 4. We will have our prediction for this game, and this year for the Browns, later this evening.