Cleveland Browns: Game Planning for Dolphins’ 4-3 “Wide 9” Defense

Aug 18, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Cody Kessler (5) during the second half at FirstEnergy Stadium, the Atlanta Falcons defeated the Cleveland Browns 24-13. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 18, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Cody Kessler (5) during the second half at FirstEnergy Stadium, the Atlanta Falcons defeated the Cleveland Browns 24-13. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cleveland Browns travel to Miami to take on the Dolphins and their attacking Wide 9 defense. If the Browns are to be successful, they must run the ball.

As the Cleveland Browns head to Miami to face the Dolphins, they arrive as the walking wounded, without their top two starting quarterbacks, a starting receiver, defensive lineman and now, of all things, their kicker. Things were already bad enough for the Browns but the slew of recent injuries have made it worse.

In the Art of War, Sun Tzu advises that a general should always leave an escape route for their opponent. For if the opponent is trapped, they will only fight harder. The Browns are trapped. Injuries have forced them into the proverbial corner. Expect them to come out fighting for their football lives.

For the offense to be successful the Browns need to focus on doing a few things right:

1. The offensive line must protect Cody Kessler.

The offensive line will be without starting center Cameron Erving. However, his loss may be a blessing in disguise. Erving struggled mightily in pass protection, particularly in one-on-one situations. By moving John Greco to center, the Browns now have an experienced veteran calling the protections and moving to help out where needed.

Erving’s injury may help stabilize the line and improve pass protection. Austin Pasztor will still need help on the edge either with tight ends or backs. But overall, the protection should be better.

2. The Browns need to run the ball.

The best way to protect Kessler is to keep him out of high pressure situations. Putting Kessler in manageable situations starts with Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson establishing a running game. Crowell has shown he can run against good defenses this season.

The Dolphins have a strong front seven and will probably stack the box. They Browns need to embrace the challenge of seeing a lot of eight man fronts and establish a running game regardless.

3. Cody Kessler must protect the ball.

Kessler will turn the ball over. Just get ready for it. As a rookie who is starting long before he is ready, Kessler will make mistakes. However, the more he is able to make good decisions, safely get rid of the ball and even take sacks, the more he will keep the Browns in position to win by simply not setting them up to lose. All rookie quarterbacks turn the ball over. The question is how much can Kessler minimize the turnovers.

The Browns will face yet another defense with a daunting front seven. The Dolphins have done an excellent job of stopping the run. However, they are beatable in the short-range passing attack.

4. The Browns must gameplan for Ndamukong Suh

It should go without saying the Browns must control the line of scrimmage. The most important member of the Dolphins’ defensive line is Ndamukong Suh. He is fierce against the run and commands double teams in pass protections opening others for one-on-one matchups. Controlling Suh will be key. If they Browns are able to neutralize him, it may set up the second key to beating this defense.

5. The Browns need to attack the Dolphins’ 4-3, Wide 9 front on the edge.

The Patriots and Seahawks both ran a lot of zone run scheme at this defense with little success. About midway through their game, the Patriots switched from zone to attacking the edge with power run schemes. They had success and set up their short and intermediate passing game by doing so.

The Browns would be smart to steal this page from the Patriots. Already a power run team, the Browns are primed for success in the run game attacking the nine techniques of the front seven. Expect the Dolphins to stack the box to stop the run and force Kessler to throw the ball to beat them. Nevertheless, the Browns must commit.

6. Browns must employ a quick passing attack.

A staple of the Hue Jackson offense has been the quick passing game. However, the quick passing attack has yet to make an appearance in Cleveland this season. This Sunday against the Dolphins would be a perfect time for it to show up.

The Dolphins are an aggressive attacking defense. The Browns can counter this attack, much like the Patriots in Week 2, by getting the ball out of the quarterback’s hands quickly. The way to neutralize an attacking defense is by utilizing screens, draws and quick passes. It would also be the best way to keep Kessler healthy. The key to this plan will be for Kessler to make good decisions. By giving him simple reads with safety valves, Kessler can be successful.

It is really too bad Corey Coleman is injured. This type of game plan plays to his skill set.