Miami's defense has a chance to be special. Cleveland's offense looked completely befuddled and off its game because of the Dolphins’ combination of speed and physicality on defense. First, Miami was stout enough to stuff physical running back Trent Richardson (47 yards on 13 carries). Then, once the Dolphins got a lead, their defense was fast enough to rush the quarterback and register six sacks from four different players. Barring injury, I do not see any reason the Dolphins defense can’t finish in the top 10 this season. That would be a significant jump from No. 21 last season. The front seven is very strong. Perhaps the biggest weakness is depth behind the starters in the secondary and linebackers.
Brian Hartline benefited from the extra attention Mike Wallace received. Hartline had nine catches for 114 yards and this touchdown.
Expect a lot of chatter this week to center around Mike Wallace being unhappy after catching one pass for 15 yards in his regular-season debut with the Dolphins. The Browns did everything they could, including constant double-teams, to make sure Wallace didn’t make big plays. But Wallace should take solace in that he impacted the game in other ways by opening things up for teammates. Fellow Miami receivers Brian Hartline (nine receptions, 114 yards) and Brandon Gibson (seven receptions, 77 yards) had big second halves because Wallace drew most of Cleveland’s attention. Different teams will choose different strategies against the Dolphins. Wallace must stay ready for when he's single covered.
The Dolphins cannot win many games averaging 0.9 yards per carry. Miami rushed for 20 yards on 23 carries against Cleveland, and it was an awful performance by both the running backs and offensive line simultaneously. There were no running lanes, and the tailbacks didn't help themselves by breaking tackles. The Dolphins must change this trend quickly. Miami's offense will become very predictable this season if it cannot get running backs Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas involved.
I’ve said constantly that Miami must finish at least 2-3 in their first five games to have a chance for the playoffs. Sunday's win over Cleveland puts Miami in a good position to match or surpass that record before the bye week. The Dolphins will face the Indianapolis Colts (1-0) on the road, the Atlanta Falcons (0-1) at home, the New Orleans Saints (1-0) on the road and the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens (0-1) at home. If the Dolphins can win at least one of these games, they will be in decent position. A split by Miami or better during this four-game slate, and the Dolphins will be in excellent shape by October.