Game Preview: Browns vs Dolphins

Although it seems like many have forgotten, the Cleveland Browns do have a game this week. Despite all the chaos surrounding the events during the final seconds of the Browns’ 21-7 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team is going for their third consecutive victory against the rebuilding Miami Dolphins.

Miami has shown some fight during the last several weeks with two wins against the New York Jets and the Indianapolis Colts. Head coach Brian Flores has been able to compete despite a depleted roster that the front office torn down to accumulate draft picks much like what former Browns executive Sashi Brown did during the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

However, the Dolphins are still a bad football team and that depleted roster has become weaker in recent weeks with the losses of Xavien Howard and Reshad Jones, two of the few remaining Pro Bowl talent left on the roster.

They’re led by quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is on his eighth team in his NFL career. He’s once again in another short-term situation as Miami will be looking towards drafting a quarterback in this April’s NFL Draft. Fitzpatrick has thrown for 1,687 yards, eight touchdowns and eight interceptions in seven starts this season.

He’s had a lack of a running game to support him and the Dolphins offense under first-year coordinator Chad O’Shea. DeVante Parker is having a solid season in a contract year leading the team with 40 catches for 604 yards and four touchdowns.

The offensive line has done both Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen no favors as they’ve been hit 94 times which is a league-high and sacked a combined 40 times.

On the defensive side of the ball, while Miami has lost Howard and Jones there is some hope for the future on that side of the football. Recent draft picks Jerome Baker and Raekwon McMillan lead the team in tackles, Taco Charlton who they claimed off waivers leads the team with four sacks and undrafted rookie Nik Needham has stepped in and been an immediate contributor.

Now while there’s hope for the future on the defensive side of the ball, it’s still a bad defense. In fact, it’s basically the worst in the league ranking 31st in points allowed (30.5 ppg) and 29th in yards allowed (394.3 ypg).

Cleveland has made strides on offense but they haven’t seemed to find a groove but this week could be the week they find that groove. If they continue to run the ball effectively while continuing to utilize Hunt as a blocker and in the passing game, it should continue to open things up for Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham.

Defensively, Cleveland is going to have to get creative in terms of creating a pass rush. Without Myles Garrett and Larry Ogunjobi both suspended, the defense will have to lean on Chris Smith and Chad Thomas to get after Fitzpatrick. The Dolphins have a poor offensive line so that should give some hope that defensive coordinator Steve Wilks will be able to scheme up some effective blitz packages to rattle Fitzpatrick.

Their running game has been silent and Fitzpatrick has thrown 36.6 attempts per game in the last five starts. If the Browns can shut down the run early and force Fitzpatrick to throw, it could spell for a long flight back to Miami.

Prediction

Cleveland 31 Miami 13

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