The Cleveland Browns open up the 2013 NFL season against the Miami Dolphins this Sunday in what is one of the more anticipated seasons yet for the franchise. In order to take down Miami and begin the season with a win, they are going to need to do a couple of things.
The main ingredient for winning this game will be to establish the running game with Trent Richardson early and often. Richardson has to potential to be a top-5 back in this league and the Browns must run the ball on first and second down right away. Being able to keep the defense honest with a fantastic back like Richardson will allow for second year quarterback Brandon Weeden to have a bit more freedom in the passing game.
Speaking of Weeden, he will need to simply manage the game, assuming Richardson gets going early. Weeden has to limit his mistakes and resist taking too many shots down field. As much as he loves to chuck it down the sideline to young wideout Josh Gordon, he won’t have Gordon in this matchup as he is suspended. In general, limiting those downfield shots to only when they’re blatantly present is going to have to be his mentality. That’s how he will limit his turnovers in 2013.
If the Browns can get Richardson going early, it will open up the play action for Gordon to go deep at times. Then, Weeden can take advantage of it. But, if the Browns cannot get Richardson going early — or don’t even attempt to stick with the run — then Weeden’s chances of doing too much will drastically raise.
On defense, a similar formula should be taken. The Dolphins are looking for an identity in the running game. Whether it’s Lamar Miller or Daniel Thomas that winds up having more success for Miami, the Browns have to confuse that situation even more if possible. By shutting down the run early, they put all the more pressure on Ryan Tannehill to try and win the game by himself — which he cannot do.
It sounds simple, but it’s an absolute virtual certainty. The Browns have a better running game, they know that. They have to run the ball early and often as well as put the Dolphins in a rut with their run game on the flip side. Taking pressure off Weeden and putting more on Tannehill will all but guarantee the Browns win this game.