The Cleveland Browns and the Miami Dolphins kick off their 2013 seasons against each other in Cleveland on Sunday. Both teams are going into the season with playoff expectations and plenty of hype, so with two similar teams facing off it could come down to a last second field goal or miraculous play. The little things matter in games like this, especially certain matchups on the field. The matchup that could prove crucial is the one that takes place in the trenches, so who has the upper hand?
Desmond Bryant was one of the better defensive lineman in the NFL last season, and he'll probably end up opposite John Jerry for most of the game. Jerry hasn't played much recently as he's been nursing an injury, so if he comes out rusty Bryant will have a field day.
NT Phil Taylor took a step up last season, but comes up against Mike Pouncey, the best center in the NFL in a lot people's minds. If you like watching the line play this battle is for you, but in the end I expect Pouncey to get the better of Taylor.
Ahtyba Rubin one of the Browns better DL men will not suit up Sunday which is great news for the OL and Lamar Miller. The news for Richie Incognito is welcoming, who has turned into one of the better guards in the league. Second year pro Joh Hughes will fill in should it be required. Both Hughes and Rubin are similar players, Hughes showed some promise in his rookie season but will need to be even better on Sunday as he has the most important job on the Browns defensive line. Disrupting Tannehills' blindside will be key if the Browns are going to come away with a win.
On the other side, new signing Tyson Clabo will have a similar role. His speciality is pass protection which will be huge for a Dolphins offense that intends to go to the air more frequently than they did last season. He will also come up against either Kruger or Sheard often, but should have no problem with them for the most part.
The team who has the upper hand in the Dolphins OL vs Browns DL battle will be determined by how Jonathan Martin copes. If he plays like he did in preseason the Dolphins should be fine, whereas a step back to last season's form would be disastrous. If the Browns can get pressure from Martin's side it will make things uncomfortable for Tannehill, who may be forced into costly mistakes. But in 2012 Tannehill shone against the blitz, and generally coped with pressure well, so even if the Browns get to him frequently the Dolphins will still have a good shot at winning the game if the play of the Browns middle linebackers and defensive backs is not up to the level of the pass rushers.