CLEVELAND - The Cleveland Browns get a second chance Sunday to impress the home fans. The first two weeks have been up-and-down, and now the team can go above .500 for the first time since 2007.
Just like the first two weeks, the game is “winnable,” with Cleveland welcoming the winless Miami Dolphins, but Browns fans know the dangers in counting wins too soon.
Also, the Dolphins 0-2 start could be deceiving, as Miami opened the season with New England and Houston, two teams likely to make the playoffs.
“It’s always a lot of fun to win at home,” head coach Pat Shurmur said. “Our opponent just happens to be the Dolphins who are very good on the road, as we’ve talked about, I’m aware of that, but it’s very important to win at home.”
Sunday’s matchup will also be a chance to see how the Browns are progressing with the pass heavy West Coast Offense.
The Dolphins have one of the worst passing defenses in the NFL, giving up an average of 361 yards a game, but the Browns are in the bottom third of the league in passing offense—so something has to give.
Shurmur used a more balanced attack against the Colts last week, compared to week one where Colt McCoy threw 40 times. Going up against a Dolphins team that has allowed big gains through the air, Shurmur might attempt go after the Miami secondary.
Rookie Greg Little has started to emerge as one of McCoy’s go-to wide receivers, and facing a team that allows big plays through the air could be an opportunity for him to have a breakout game.
Will running back Montario Hardesty get more involved in the contest?
The Browns running back has been used sparingly in the first two games, as the Browns coaches continue to work him back from a torn ACL that cost him all of last season.
Hardesty insists he is now “100 percent” healthy, and he is ready to show Browns fans why the team used a second round draft pick to get him last season.
“I feel no apprehension about the knee,” Hardesty said. “Now I can just go out and play football.”
Hardesty ran with the first team on Friday after starter Peyton Hillis missed practice because he was sick. The extra reps in practice could help Hardesty, who did not get into the game until the fourth quarter last week.
This Sunday, Shurmur plans to get Hardesty involved earlier.
“I’d like to see him play early in the game so where that ends up being, it would definitely mean the first half and probably the first quarter,” Shurmur said.
Dolphins offensive coordinator Brian Daboll returns to Cleveland to face his former team. Daboll was let go in the off-season as part of the cleaning house that followed Eric Mangini’s firing.
The Dolphins picked up the young coordinator—who showed moments of brilliance with the Browns—and now he is tasked with running a Dolphins offense led by quarterback Chad Henne.
The bright spots in Cleveland for Daboll—beating New Orleans and New England handedly last season—were too sporadic, as the Browns had one of the worst offenses in the NFL.
But he has been well received in Miami for the early part of the season, and the Dolphins are in the top third in the league for total offense.
“I have nothing but respect for Coach Daboll,” McCoy said this week. “If you ask the guys in this locker room, we have respect for him.”
Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Water Cooler News
If you think it's hard to outsmart a cockroach, you're right. Scientists have discovered how some of these bugs evolved to resist sweet-tasting poison baits.
Top Sports Headlines
Will Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Tyler Zeller and this June’s number one and 19th picks take the team to places that LeBron James used to?