Sunday marks the beginning of sophomore year for quarterbacks Brandon Weeden and Ryan Tannehill, and both are expected to make huge strides as the Cleveland Browns host the Miami Dolphins at FirstEnergy Stadium in Week One.
Each team has high hopes for their second-year passers and running backs, and rookie pass rushers as well.
The Dolphins surpassed expectations last season and finished a respectable 7-9, behind 3,294 yards and 12 touchdowns from Tannehill. Miami’s defense allowed a seventh best 19.6 points per game, but the pass defense was ranked 27th overall.
Tannehill also had 13 interceptions, and an average passer rating of 76.1 in 16 starts. He’ll look for help from second-year rusher Lamar Miller, who takes over for Reggie Bush in the backfield. The fourth round pick in the 2012 draft had 51 rushes for 250 yards and a score last year, and averaged 4.9 yards per carry.
Miami moved up to the third overall pick in this year’s draft, and selected defensive end Dion Jordan out of Oregon to beef up its pass attack. Though he had shoulder surgery earlier this year and missed three preseason games, Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said Jordan would play a “significant role” on Sunday, complementing the pair of Cameron Wake and Oliver Vernon up front.
The Browns crawled last year to a 5-11 record and last place showing in the AFC North, but Weeden and running back Trent Richardson showed lots of promise. Battling an early knee injury, Richardson still rushed for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns, while Weeden found some control in the second half of the season but still finished with 17 interceptions to his 14 touchdowns.
Like Miami, the Browns took a powerful defensive end in Barkevious Mingo with their first round selection, but the 6-foot-4 241-pounder is listed as out for Week One. Mingo suffered a bruised lung during the preseason, and will continue to sit.
The game begins at 1 p.m. ET and will be broadcast by CBS or watch a live online stream by purchasing NFL Game Access here.
Betting Odds: Cleveland is favored by 1 point.
Over/Under: 41 points.
Prediction: Miami 24, Cleveland 17