The Miami Dolphins invested a lot in quarterback Ryan Tannehill when they made him the No. 8 overall draft selection in the 2012 NFL Draft.
They reinforced that investment by giving him more weapons this offseason, headlined by the signing of former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace to a five-year, $60 million deal. The Dolphins also brought in wide receiver Brandon Gibson (three-year deal, $9.75 million) from the St. Louis Rams and re-signed GlenOak High’s Brian Hartline (five years, $30.7 million) to a long-term extension. Together, albeit on different teams, they caught 189 passes for 2,610 yards and 14 touchdowns.
The Dolphins poured more than $100 million into the wide receiver position to quicken Tannehill’s development, and the Browns’ secondary gets the first official screening today. It will see how far Tannehill has come since last season, when he started all 16 games.
“He’s a second-year player, so he’s been in [Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike] Sherman’s system for a while now,” Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton said Thursday. “I think he’s comfortable with what they want to do and what they’re asking him to do. I think his maturation process from starting as a rookie quarterback in the NFL is probably just getting used to the complexities of the defense he sees, how they change.”
Tannehill has a year of experience under his belt and he’s already notched one solid showing against Horton. Last season, when the Dolphins faced Horton’s Arizona Cardinals, Tannehill torched him for 431 yards on 26-of-41 passing and a touchdown, though he threw two interceptions.
The Browns will try to knock a young quarterback off his rhythm as he plays with a new group of receivers.
“Mike Wallace is a really good addition but I don’t think they have too much time together, so [we’ll] just try to get in there and mess stuff up and throw off their timing,” Browns cornerback Joe Haden said. “I wouldn’t say Tannehill is Tom Brady, but he’s definitely a solid quarterback and I think our defense and front seven will be able to just get in there and put pressure on him and try to get him uncomfortable.”
Today is also another showdown between Haden and Wallace, a receiver-corner combo who can’t seem to get away from one another. Even before squaring off twice a year when the Browns and Steelers met, the two competed in the SEC (Wallace went to Ole Miss, Haden to Florida) against each other. The trash talking this week started early. On Wednesday, Wallace fired some warning words Haden’s way.
“I know it is going to be a long battle all day long,” Wallace told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “I’m going to sleep early and I hope he goes to sleep early because it is going to be a long day. I’m excited because [Haden is] a guy where you can really [gauge] where you’re at. ... I’m going to have my swag out too so he better be ready on Sunday.”
Wallace knows Haden well enough to joke about his sense of fashion, saying he expects Haden will come out looking “sweet” and amp himself up. Wallace, though, says he’ll look better in his all-white road uniform. The competition between the two never ends.
On the field, Wallace is one of the fastest, if not the fastest, receivers in the NFL. Haden welcomes that challenge.
“Going against Wallace, he’s one of the players I look forward to playing every time I’ve been a Brown with the Steelers,” Haden said last week. “Now I’m going against him again. ... It’s always good to go against talent like that because going against the best is the way you get to measure yourself.”
The task of guarding Hartline and Gibson will be up to Chris Owens, Buster Skrine, who is listed as questionable, and Leon McFadden, a tall order for any corners. Horton says the Browns will mirror however the Dolphins line up at the line of scrimmage, and that everything on the defense’s part is reactionary to how the Dolphins come out of the huddle. He also believes the Browns have the cornerbacks to keep up with such talented receivers.
“Right now, we believe we have three starting corners in Haden, Skrine and Christopher Owens that can go out there and compete and have competed in the preseason,” Horton said. “I’m very happy, very satisfied about the status of our corners.”
The Browns need Horton to be right. Those cornerbacks have to guard $100 million worth of receivers to start the season.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.