Every game features important matchups that could play a huge role in determining the outcome of the game. Here are a few of the ones that jump out in this week’s matchup between the Browns and Dolphins.
Dolphins DE Cameron Wake vs. Browns OT Mitchell Schwartz
The advanced stats suggest that Wake has an argument as the best defensive end not named J.J. Watt. Mitchell Schwartz had a great rookie year but has to come out and have a big day against a premier defensive end.
Browns DT Phil Taylor vs. Dolphins C Mike Pouncey
Pouncey is arguably the best center in the league while many feel Taylor is ready to have a breakout year and if the preseason is any indication, he well could be. From the school of needing to beat the best to be the best, Taylor needs to prove it against a player like Pouncey to really earn the recognition he wants. It would also really make the Browns feel good about the center piece of their front seven.
Browns CB Joe Haden vs. Dolphins WR Mike Wallace
Haden credits it to getting married, but he has come in with more focus and a bigger leadership role this year which has prompted Chud and others to suggest Haden is ready to make the leap to being an elite corner. Wallace was a huge free agent move for the Dolphins in terms of the size of the contract he received, so he will need to go out and prove he is worth it. These two are extremely familiar with each other from Wallace’s time in Pittsburgh playing each other twice per year.
Browns CBs Buster Skrine and Chris Owens vs. Dolphins WR Brian Hartline
The matchup between Wallace and Haden is big, but this could have a bigger impact on the game. The former Buckeye had a pretty good year as the team’s #1 receiver last year but is probably better suited in a #2 role, where he could really flourish and get favorable matchups. Tannehill is extremely comfortable getting him the ball as he was the leading receiver last year. On the other hand, many Browns’ fans are terrified of Skrine doing anything and are going to need convincing he can do anything. He sustained a shoulder injury this week and it is unknown how severe it is or if it will impact his playing status. If it really impacts him, the Browns will then have Owens cover Hartline. The Browns defense is really counting on a strong pass rush to help Skrine, Owens, or anyone else back there not named Haden so this is a big opportunity for one of them to have a good game or an example of how concerning this position really is.
Browns OLB Jabaal Sheard vs. Dolphins OT Jonathan Martin
While he does not get a ton of national buzz, it is tough to find someone who does not think Sheard is ready to break out this year in a big way. Some had concerns about his move from a defensive end to outside linebacker but he has made a difficult transition look easy. Going into this game, the Browns have to be expecting a big impact from Sheard and especially against Martin.
On the other side, Martin has talent but he has struggled in his transition to the NFL from Stanford. The Dolphins had three separate opportunities to try to upgrade the left tackle spot, first when they were trying to resign Jake Long, then with potentially trading for Branden Albert and then after they traded up in the NFL Draft and chose Dion Jordan over Lane Johnson. Martin is their guy and he has a big test right out of the gate. If Martin can have a big game and can protect Ryan Tannehill, it will make a huge difference in the game.
Dolphins DTs Randy Starks and Jared Odrick vs. Browns RG Oniel Cousins
Starks is an underrated defensive tackle who can really create a lot of push up front and Odrick rotates to provide more athleticism and a bigger pass rush, so the Dolphins have options in how they want to attack the Browns third string right guard. Chud admitted that Cousins was moved over to guard as an afterthought and was satisfied enough to keep him there to avoid having to start Garrett Gilkey there until Shawn Lauvao comes back. Cousins was up and down against the Indianapolis Colts and the hope is that the time since then has given him time to get a little more comfortable, but the Dolphins have to be looking at this as a spot on the line to really exploit.
Dolphins CB Dmitri Patterson vs. Browns WR Davone Bess
With Josh Gordon suspended, Bess enters the starting lineup and could line up against Patterson quite a bit. Patterson, formerly of the Browns and Bess, formerly of the Dolphins will have a chance to send a message to their former team. Bess has been relatively private with his feelings about his former team while Patterson has been vocal about his displeasure with the Browns. Someone in the wide receiver corp needs to step up and this might be the matchup for Brandon Weeden to try to attack.
Tags: Brian Hartline Buster Skrine Cameron Wake Chris Owens Cleveland Browns Davone Bess Dmitri Patterson Jabaal Sheard Joe Haden Joe Thomas Jonathan Martin Miami Dolphins Mike Pouncey Mike Wallace Phil Taylor