The Miami Dolphins' Ryan Tannehill and the Cleveland Browns' Brandon Weeden both managed to earn starting jobs during their first seasons in the league in 2012. Despite similarly up-and-down rookie years, both were able to hold onto those jobs for 2013.
Now entering their sophomore campaigns, both quarterbacks will need to prove they deserve their respective spots -- a task that begins this Sunday as their teams face off in the season opener.
Meet the Browns
The Browns ranked in the bottom-half of most offensive categories last season, but with Weeden and Trent Richardson now having a year of NFL experience under their respective belts, look for those numbers to improve in 2013. Weeden beat out Jason Campbell for the starting job, but he'll need to prove quickly that he can cut down on the 17 interceptions he tossed last year. Richardson impressed onlookers by finding the end zone 12 times in 2012, but his 3.6 yards per carry needs to increase. Davone Bess, who was shipped over from Miami in a trade this offseason, will get the start at wide receiver against his former team.
Ray Horton moved from Arizona to take over as defensive coordinator for the Browns, bringing along an aggressive and creative scheme that made the Cardinals one of the better pass rushing teams over the past two seasons. He'll have plenty of edge rushers at his disposal, including free agent pickup Paul Kruger and first-round pick Barkevious Mingo (though his status for Sunday is uncertain).
Meet the Dolphins
The Dolphins are counting on a big improvement from their own second-year quarterback, Tannehill. Like Weeden, he threw more picks than touchdowns last season (12 to 13) and finished with a QBR of just 50.4. The addition of speedy wideout Mike Wallace should help stretch the field, though, and allow Brian Hartline and tight end Charles Clay to work the short-to-intermediate routes.
The Dolphins pass defense ranked 27th in league last year, but the secondary should get some help from a defensive line that could develop into one of the top pass-rushing units in the league. A group that put up 42 sacks in 2012 improves with the addition of No. 3 overall draft pick Dion Jordan, who has impressed in training camp and is expected to play in Sunday's opener.
Local Takes: Browns
The matchup against Miami should provide a good indication of how the Brown's season will go, explains Dawgs By Nature:
On paper, the Dolphins look like a better team by the narrowest of margins, but it's hard to say anything for sure given the huge turnover the Browns saw in the offseason. This game will be a good measuring stick as Miami is as close to average as you can be across the board. A win could mean Cleveland is in for a fun year, while a loss could be an indicator of another rough season.
Local Takes: Dolphins
Miller is going to be an explosive option out of the backfield, both running and receiving. He is definitely a better runner than pass catcher at this point in his career, but that does not mean he won't be spread out along the line or run routes from the backfield. His blitz pickup is obviously the weak part of his game, which is probably what kept Thomas in the running for the starting spot for so long, but we saw it get better and better throughout the preseason.
Follow the Fun
Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:
DL Desmond Bryant (back) and OLB Barkevious Mingo (lung) were limited in practice Wed & Thur. CB Buster Skrine was limited Thur w/ shoulder— Dawgs By Nature (@DawgsByNature) September 5, 2013
Bess said he had a broken back last year, #Dolphins wanted him back on field. There's a disconnect somewhere.— Kevin Nogle (@thephinsider) September 4, 2013
@MaryKayCabot - Browns beat writer
@AbramsonPBP - Dolphins beat writer
Peter Prisco of CBS Sports has the Browns taking this one, 17-14.
This is a game matching two teams who should be improved -- at least they think they are. The Dolphins spent big in free agency, while the Browns have a new coach in Rob Chudzinski. This will be about the two quarterbacks. Brandon Weeden and Ryan Tannehill are both in their second seasons. Weeden gets off to a better start here and the Browns will win a close one.
Miami opened as slight 1½ point favorites over Cleveland, according to Oddsshark.
The Browns travel to Baltimore to take on the defending champion Ravens, who will be looking to redeem themselves after a mauling at the hands of Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in the season opener. The Dolphins head to Manning's old stomping grounds, Indianapolis, for a showdown with Andrew Luck and the Colts.