Browns hoping to end streak
CLEVELAND – You’re probably tired of hearing about it by now, but let’s go through it one more time.
The Browns, in case you’ve forgotten, have a 1-13 record in season openers since their return to the NFL as an expansion franchise in 1999. The only win – 20-3 over the Baltimore Ravens – occurred in 2004.
Now that kicker Phil Dawson is in San Francisco, none of the players who have spent their entire career with the Browns have experienced an opening win. The plan today when the Browns host the Miami Dolphins at First Energy Stadium is to put an end to the eight-game losing streak in openers.
“It’s not a kill shot (if we don’t win), but we have to get over that hump and start winning games eventually,” Browns cornerback Joe Haden said. “It’s not going be, ‘Let’s get the next one.’ We have to win this first game.
“Not putting all the pressure on, but it’s time to (man) up. We always talk about it, but if you can’t go out there and win, it’s not a step forward. Everybody is ready. I think the last thing you’ll see is a lack of effort.”
Browns coach Rob Chudzinski was the offensive coordinator for former Browns coach Butch Davis in 2004. Not much went right after the win over the Ravens. The Browns finished with a 4-12 record and Davis was fired with five games remaining in the season.
“That’s the danger of putting all of your eggs in one basket,” Chudzinski said. “I can’t remember how many games we won that year, but it wasn’t a lot. Other times I’ve been on teams that may have lost the first game and have gone on to win 13 games.”
The game will match two of the four quarterbacks selected in the first round of the 2012 draft Cleveland’s Brandon Weeden and Miami’s Ryan Tannehill. Both players encountered growing pains during their rookie seasons, but the national perspective leans more toward Tannehill fulfilling his promise.
Tannehill completed 58.3 percent of his passes for 3,294 yards, 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 2012. Weeden connected on 57.4 percent of his passes for 3,385 yards, 14 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.
Tannehill needs to make improvement if for no reason other than to improve the job security of second-year coach Joe Philbin.
“He has a thousand reps of NFL football basically under his belt that he didn’t have on opening day a year ago,” Philbin said. “We’ve seen a maturation of his mastery of the offense.
“The anticipation is he’s going to play the game a little faster now. I think he’s more comfortable in his role of being a NFL quarterback.”
The Browns will be without linebacker Barkevious Mingo, the sixth overall pick in the NFL draft. Mingo suffered a bruised lung in the second preseason game and, although participating in individual practice drills, isn’t ready for game action.
Injuries hit the Browns hard at running back and guard. Running backs Dion Lewis and Montario Hardesty are both on season-ending injured reserve. Oniel Cousins, slated to be a backup lineman, starts at right guard because of injuries to Shawn Lauvao and Jason Pinkston.
In addition, defensive lineman Ahtyba Rubin developed a calf injury in practice Thursday. Cornerback Buster Skrine hurt his shoulder the same day.
Dolphins outside linebacker Dion Jordan, selected third overall in this year’s draft, has been hindered by a shoulder injury. He’s expected to be available.
The Browns believe they have put together a better-than-average defense that will compensate for some offensive deficiencies.
“The Browns are playing good, fundamental football on defense, no question about it,” Philbin said. “They have two good outside linebackers that set the edge. They’re physical inside in the middle, and their defensive backs look to be well-coached as well.”
We’ll know more later today.