Dolphins Defensive Front Proves to Be Deep and Talented vs. Browns

While it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows in the Miami Dolphins 23-10 season-opening victory over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, their first opening day victory since 2010 at Buffalo, there were a lot of positives and some negatives. The 23 rushes for 20 yards stuck out as a sore spot, but the play of Charles Clay at the tight end position was encouraging for Miami as was the maturation of quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the three forced turnovers from a defense that took the ball away just 16 times all last season. As nice as it is for the Dolphins to be 1-0 with a brutal upcoming schedule, Sunday afternoon belonged to the defensive line.

Wake had 2.5 sacks on Sunday. (Photo:
Expected to be one of the brighter spots for a team with playoff aspirations in 2013, the Miami Dolphins defensive line far from disappointed on Sunday. The Dolphins finished the afternoon with six sacks and kept pressure on Cleveland's second-year quarterback, Brandon Weeden, for much of the day. What makes Sunday's effort from the front four even better was the fact that it wasn't a one-man, two-man or even a four-man show. While it's only one game, Miami looks to not only have one of the best, but one of the deepest defensive lines in the NFL as well.

It was business as usual for Cameron Wake, who finished with 2.5 sacks on Sunday while Randy Starks seemed to put any issues he may have had with the organization aside to record a sack and a half of his own. On the interior with Starks, Paul Soliai showed that he was more than just a run-stuffer as Soliai batted down two passes and drew plenty of attention to open things up for other pass rushers.

While Olivier Vernon and the versatile Jared Odrick combined for just one tackle, the combo spent much of the day in the Cleveland backfield. Also getting in on the sack action was defensive end Derrick Shelby, who entered the preseason far from a lock to make the team. Shelby finished the day with a sack and a forced fumble which he nearly ripped from the hands of Weeden.

Although the final sack of the day for Miami was marred by a 15-yard facemask penalty which gave Cleveland a first down, it may have been the most encouraging. Rookie and third overall pick Dion Jordan, who had his preseason reps limited due to injury, corralled Weeden on a speed rush for his first career sack with roughly two minutes to play.

While Miami allowed 289 yards passing to Weeden, it came with a completion rate of less than 50 percent (26-for-53). The Dolphins' defensive front was also largely responsible for holding the Browns' talented second-year back Trent Richardson to a pedestrian 47 yards rushing on 13 carries with just 14 yards coming after halftime.

While Sunday was not a perfect day for the Dolphins, their record after one game is. Miami erased a 7-6 halftime deficit to outscore Cleveland 17-3 in the second half with the front four looking even better than advertised. It won't easy to record six sacks every week for Miami, but with the depth and talent that was on display on Sunday, the Dolphins look to be frequent visitors to opposing backfields. With so much depth and versatility as well, this won't be any team to pound away at late in games either.

Mike Ferguson is a staff writer at Dolphin Shout and the founder and editor of Outside the Redzone. Like Outside the Redzone on Facebook! Also, follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.