Dolphins-Browns matchup of the day: Friday

Posted Sept. 23, 2011 @ 11:56 a.m.
Posted By Mike Wilkening

Here's a matchup to watch in Sunday's Dolphins-Browns game:

Cleveland's passing game vs. Miami's secondary

The Browns don't have a go-to wideout, but they do have a good deal of targets that QB Colt McCoy trusts. The Dolphins, who had problems stopping Texans WR Andre Johnson (7-93-1 on nine targets) in Week Two, now face a Cleveland offense that has targeted no player more than eight times in any game this season — and that player was RB Peyton Hillis, who caught six short passes for a mere 30 yards in Week One.

However, the Browns have shown they can stretch the field. WR Mohamed Massaquoi (team-high 13 targets in two games) shook free for a 56-yard reception in Week One. TE Benjamin Watson scored a 34-yard TD off a play-action roll-out in which McCoy threw a strike down the middle of the field. TE Evan Moore, who is essentially a big wide receiver in this offense, can get downfield and has a TD catch in each game thus far, and physical rookie Greg Little has shown he can get open and be tough to bring down after the catch.

The Dolphins' pass defense had no answers for the Patriots' powerful aerial offense in Week One, and Miami also had its problems stopping Houston's strong passing attack. The Browns' passing offense won't be confused with New England's or Houston's, but it is more potent than a season ago, and it has been very sharp in stretches in the first two games. McCoy (41-of-72 passing, 424 yards, three TDs, one interception in two starts) was more accurate in Week Two than in the opener, when he completed just 19-of-40 passes.

While the Dolphins' secondary has taken its lumps early, it is not a group without talent. CBs Vontae Davis and Sean Smith form a solid starting tandem. However, the athletic Davis, who plays on the right side, has a hamstring injury, and his status for Sunday's game is unclear. If he can't go, the Dolphins could turn to veteran Will Allen, who was recently re-signed; or Nolan Carroll, whom New England and Houston have successfully attacked. The team's safety play also has been a weakness. Reshad Jones (free) and Yeremiah Bell (strong) are the starters.