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Miami Dolphins at Cleveland Browns: Preview and Pick
Miami Dolphins at Cleveland Browns: Preview and Pick
The NFL season kicks off this weekend and the game featuring the Miami Dolphins and the Cleveland Browns will highlight two teams who have a very bright future in the league. The Dolphins believe they have all of the pieces to finally emerge from the shadow that the New England Patriots have cast in the AFC East. Meanwhile the Browns are finally loaded with draft prospects that will have this team competing with the tough teams in division. It all starts in week one when they face off!
Miami Dolphins at Cleveland Browns Odds
The odds on this game currently have the Browns listed as a (PK) which is an indication of just how close this game will be. This line has yet to move but after looking at some very popular sports consensus sites the public is backing the Browns at a 56 percent clip. This could be due to the fact that the Browns have the home field advantage or that the Dolphins had a severe injury in the preseason.
It may have been a tight end, but when the Dolphins lost Dustin Keller in the preseason they lost a big piece of the offense. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is becoming a quality quarterback and since the team acquired Mike Wallace in the offseason they are ready to become a very potent offense. Losing Keller hurts, but with Lamar Miller running the ball and Wallace catching the deep ball they will be tough to beat.
The Browns believe they have vastly improved their offense but they did it with a move off the field. The Browns hired ex San Diego Chargers longtime coach Norv Turner to call the shots on offense. So far in the preseason this has been a perfect fit for quarterback Brandon Weeden. Turner and head coach Rob Chudzinski know exactly what kind of offense that they want to run and with Trent Richardson running the rock, the Browns should be excited to start the season.
The football betting trends show that the Dolphins could be in trouble in this game. The Dolphins are 1-5-1 ATS in their last 7 games in Week 1, 5-15-3 ATS in their last 23 games in September, and 0-4-1 ATS in their last 5 meetings. The Browns also struggle in the opener as they are 1-7 ATS in the last eight games in week one.
This is the year where one of these teams believes they can take the corner and change the culture of the franchise.
Miami Dolphins at Cleveland Browns Pick
With plenty of time to go before the start of the regular season, I will wait to release my pick on this game until we get closer to game day.
Here are some Dolphins notes from Monday's practice:
•Miami had full attendance in preparation for Week 1. However, Miami rookie cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Will Davis worked on the side with trainers in the portion of practice open to the media. Taylor has been off and on with hernia and groin injuries. Davis had a boot on his left foot, which is never a good sign with a game just six days away. That provides insight into why Miami kept extra defensive backs on its 53-man roster.
•As far as good news, Dolphins No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan participated in team drills Monday. Jordan (shoulder) returned to full practice last week, which is a sign he's making good progress. Jordan appears confident he can play in Sunday's regular-season opener against the Browns. His role would likely be as a third-down pass-rusher if Jordan plays for Miami.
•Dolphins tight end Charles Clay remains with the first team. Miami is still searching for a tight end to emerge after the season-ending knee injury to starter Dustin Keller. Clay sat with many of Miami’s starters last week in the fifth preseason game.
•Two Dolphins rookies changed their numbers after making the 53-man roster. Running back Mike Gillislee changed from 35 to 23, which is the number he wore at the University of Florida. Fellow Gators alum and rookie linebacker Jelani Jenkins also changed his number from 43 to 53. Jenkins took the number of former Dolphins veteran linebacker Austin Spitler.
Eleven years and “about 60 pounds” ago, Joe Thomas was a high-school placekicker. The six-time Pro Bowl left tackle isn’t auditioning for the team’s opening at kicker today or losing any sleep about the lack of depth at running back, receiver and cornerback or the youth of the roster.
“It’s hard for people to believe it, but it’s not something we really worry about,” Thomas said. “Maybe the coaches or the guys who have to shuffle people around do, but if you look at the top 25 guys, the guys who are going to be playing the most, it’s been set since April 1. There wasn’t a lot of consternation over who is going to be the starting right tackle. It’s the guys at the bottom who are being shuffled around.”
While roster uncertainty and a heavy reliance on first- and second-year players are major talking points outside the Browns locker room, the team’s veterans are, at least publicly, downplaying such concerns in advance of Sunday’s season opener against the Miami Dolphins.
The club is the second youngest in the NFL behind only the St. Louis Rams and features nine undrafted rookie free agents. Twenty-seven players on the 46-man active roster are in their first or second NFL season.
As Browns fans focus on their team's greenness, several veterans said it exemplifies life in the post-2010 NFL with its collective bargaining agreement that includes a rookie salary cap. The Dolphins come to Cleveland sporting 20 players on their active roster with less than two years of service. No team in the AFC North has fewer than 17 players fitting the description.
Still, these aren’t the Browns of Eric Mangini, who reshaped the lineup with veterans. Only the Rams have more players (28) in their first or second years.
“That’s today’s NFL to be honest . . . the value of rookies and their entry contracts is a lot higher,” Thomas said. “You are getting the same performance or near the same performance and you don’t have to pay them anything versus your vets which you have to pay what they are worth on the market.”
Browns safety T.J. Ward observers the same trend. He will play alongside Tashaun Gipson, a second-year undrafted free agent. Gipson’s path to the starting free safety’s job was cleared in part when the club released veteran Usama Young in the offseason.
“I definitely think we are going to see more of it,” Ward said. “If there is a close competition between a rookie and an older vet the rookie is probably going to get the nod.”
It's hard for people to believe it, but it's not something we really worry about.
Prior to the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, offseasons were rife with stories of “salary-cap casualties.” As of Monday, nearly a third of the teams were at least $10 million under the $123 million cap, according to data from the NFL Players Association. The league average is $9.1 million with the Browns sitting a whopping $27 million below the bar.
“With a team like we are on right now with a new GM and new coach and owner they are going to want to bring in as many young guys as they can and put together a good core nucleus,” Thomas said. “That’s just the nature of the NFL”
Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, playing for his fourth coach in eight years, said he’s come to “expect the unexpected” with the Browns. He expressed disappointment in losing “ a lot of good guys,” but voiced his confidence in CEO Joe Banner’s ability to assemble a team. Jackson believes the “foundation is set.”
Center Alex Mack said many of the 2012 rookies performed well and that most league rosters represent a “wide spectrum” of players from first rounders to undrafted free agents. “It doesn’t matter where you start but where you finish,” Mack said.
Ward was a walk-on at Oregon who transformed himself into a 2010 second-round draft pick. He’s not troubled by the fact the Browns have 17 undrafted players in their first or second seasons. “Those guys are totally capable of helping us,” he said.
The kicking situation is becoming a public-relations nightmare given the popularity of Phil Dawson, who was allowed to leave via free agency despite coming off a Pro Bowl season.
Thomas has tremendous respect for his former teammate but, unlike many fans, he isn’t worried the club is trying out kickers five days before the opener. His point is Dawson’s replacement doesn’t need to absorb a playbook to succeed on Sunday. “The special teams coach is probably pulling his hair out, but most of us realize you can trade kickers like chairs,” Thomas said. “It’s not like there is any game plan . . . You certainly can bring a guy in off the street and have him kick it through the uprights.”
As uncertainty abounds, Browns veterans are ready to ride on a roster filled with youth. Maybe it is emblematic of “today’s NFL,” but it won't allay fans' fears of another losing season.
The Miami Dolphins’ running back competition appears to be over, and the guy expected to win it all along — Lamar Miller — has done just that. Late Monday afternoon, the Dolphins released their depth chart for this weekend’s season opener in Cleveland, and Miller — the homegrown talent from the University of Miami — occupied the top line. Short of a last-minute change in plans, Miller — and not Daniel Thomas — will start against the Browns.
If so, Miller will officially succeed Reggie Bush as the Dolphins’ featured back, which should come as little surprise. His soaring potential was a major factor in the team letting Bush walk in free agency back in March. “It would be a great accomplishment,” Miller said, when asked about that scenario earlier in the day. “Everybody dreams about it.”
The Dolphins’ other position battles also played out as expected. John Jerry essentially won the right guard job when the Dolphins cut Lance Louis.
Dimitri Patterson did the same at corner when Miami released Richard Marshall. Both moves were made official by Monday’s depth chart.
As for defensive tackle, Jared Odrick and Randy Starks were again listed as co-starters, as they’ve been all summer.
So the only real intrigue was at running back, and even that played out as most predicted. Miller, who starred at Killian High and UM before joining the Dolphins in 2012, won the job after being the statistically superior back in the preseason. In five games, Miller had more yards (72 to 52), more touchdowns (1 to 0) and a better yards-per-carry average (4.2 to 2.7) than Thomas.
Miller was even a comparable pass blocker, according to Pro Football Focus, which had been a weakness early in his rookie season. Still, the Dolphins held off on naming a starter until game week, saying recently that Thomas, a third-year back out of Kansas State, had a legitimate shot to start.
And on Monday, offensive coordinator Mike Sherman made clear he expects both to get significant carries this fall. “I think because they are so different they offer ... a different dynamic when in the game,” Sherman. “I think there will be a challenge defensively to be able to put both running backs on the field separately.”
What remains unclear: Who will be the team’s short-yardage back. Intuitively, the job would belong to Thomas, who outweighs Miller by 17 pounds. But don’t discount Miller, who got most of the goal line work in the preseason.
Whoever plays that role needs to do it better than the Dolphins did a year ago, when they converted just 60 percent of their third or fourth-and-2 or shorter situations.
Miller’s job will be to gain yards on most every down and distance. Center Mike Pouncey thinks he will, predicting a 1,300-yard season for Miller, and believes the offense will be at its best when Dolphins run the ball some 30 times a game. “I think we have to,” Pouncey said. “Our biggest advantage is running the football. We’ve got a big offensive line. We’ve got the right zone scheme. And now we’ve got the speed on the outside so guys can’t stack the box. Our run game should be really good.”
We’ve heard it roughly a thousand times this summer, how much the Dolphins are putting a premium on turnover ratio this season. One Dolphin is taking it to the extreme. Every morning as the team warms up, it’s virtually impossible to find cornerback Brent Grimes when he doesn’t have a ball in his hands. Linus has his blanket; Brent has his football. “I’ve done that always,” Grimes says. “Since I can remember playing football, unless a coach says you’ve got to put the ball away, I’m going to have a ball most of the time.”
Coach Joe Philbin says the biggest reason the team was 7-9 last year was its minus-10 turnover differential, and defensive players have had to swat at footballs (to simulate stripping it) as they enter meetings. So you get the idea Grimes is primed to continue the run he had in 2009-10 for Atlanta, when he made 11 total interceptions in those two seasons. “
Browns new kicker Billy Cundiff has already gotten a small taste of what it's like to replace Phil Dawson, and now he'll get the full breadth of it. Cundiff, who spent five games with the Browns in 2009 when Dawson was struggling with a strained calf, was signed to a one-year contract Tuesday. A league source said the deal is worth $840,000, the minimum for a player in his eighth season.
Cundiff, who endeared himself to Browns fans by keeping the Ravens out of the Super Bowl after the 2011 season, tried out and beat out rookie Giorgio Tavecchio for the job. Tavecchio, undrafted out of Cal, was waived by the Packers last week.
In relief of Dawson in 2009, Cundiff made all four field-goal tries, including an 18-yard game-winning field goal with 22 seconds remaining in a 6-3 victory over Buffalo at Ralph Wilson Stadium. It marked Eric Mangini's first victory as head ocach of the Browns after an 0-4 start. He went on to kick for the Ravens the following season, earning Pro Bowl honors after making 26 of his 29 field goal attempts and a league-high 40 touchbacks.
He tried out with the Jets this summer, but was released last week after making all three of his field goals this preseason -- all from 39 yards or less -- and all four of his extra points. Overall, he's made 139 of 184 attempts for 75.5%.
There's at least one area in which Cundiff will make fans pine for Dawson: on kicks of 50 yards or more. Dawson made a league-high 14 of 15 kicks from 50-plus in 2011 and 2012, including going 7-for-7 last season. Overall, he's third in the NFL with a 70.6 conversion rate from 50 yards or more (24-of-34).
Cundiff, on the other hand, has made only 5-of-23 from 50-plus for 21.7%.
The Browns had hoped to try out fellow Pro Bowler Dan Carpenter Tuesday, but he got a call from Buffalo when he was on his way to Cleveland, and opted to take the sure thing instead of competing with Cundiff for the job.
•The only absence was third-string quarterback Pat Devlin, who has an ankle injury. Devlin hasn’t practiced all week, and it appears the Dolphins are comfortable going into Sunday's game with two quarterbacks. Miami starter Ryan Tannehill and backup Matt Moore got a lot of reps in practice this week without a third player available.
•Miami also is expected to be without rookie cornerbacks Will Davis (toe) and Jamar Taylor (groin). Both players rehabbed and worked with trainers in the portion of practice open to the media. Neither Davis nor Taylor practiced all week. So it’s safe to assume they won’t be available for Sunday’s game. Miami will release its final injury report with the official status designations Friday evening.
•It’s interesting to see the amount of starters and key contributors Miami has working on special teams. Starting tight end Charles Clay, cornerback Brent Grimes, No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan and starting safeties Reshad Jones and Chris Clemons are all working on various special teams. We won't know for sure which starters will play in the third phase until Sunday. But it’s clear Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin is taking special teams very serious, even if it's an additional injury risk involved with key players.
•Dolphins starting cornerback Dimitri Patterson suffered an ankle injury in practice this week, but it’s not serious. Patterson hasn’t missed a practice and participated in team drills in Friday's portion of practice open to the media. The difference was Patterson wore a protective sleeve in Friday’s walkthrough.
Browns starting left end Ahytba Rubin (calf) and starting right cornerback Buster Skrine (shoulder) sat out Friday's practice and both are questionable for Sunday's opener against the Dolphins.
Coach Rob Chudzinski said both players suffered their injuries during Thursday's practice, but Rubin's wasn't known until he came in today.
Chudzinski said Rubin's injury is different than the calf injury that caused him to miss all of three games last year and most of another.
Second-year pro John Hughes is behind Rubin on the depth chart. Billy Winn is also backing up Desmond Bryant on the right side and can fill in for Rubin if necessary.
Skrine, who rode the exercise bike today, will be replaced by Chris Owens if he can't play. It would leave the Browns with only three cornerbacks on the rostesr: Owens, Joe Haden and rookie Leon McFadden. Johnson Bademosi, who's been converted to safety, can also play cornerback if needed.
Owens has struggled with a foot injury all preseason, but said he feels fine heading into the game.
In other injury news, backup right outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo (bruised lung), was limited again in practice and has been ruled out of the game. Mingo sat out special teams drills, but participated in some linebacker agility drills. He's been held out of drills that involve hitting a sled or a tackling dummy.
This may stun some people, but I believe the Browns have some of the best young talent in the league. Norv Turner's offense is working quite well for this team and it will show right away in week one. The Dolphins are 1-5-1 ATS in their last 7 games in Week 1, 5-15-3 ATS in their last 23 games in September--which equals a slow start for the Fins.