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Dolphins at Browns: Interview with AFC North Writer Andrea Hangst

Brandon Weeden is looking to prove he’s a franchise quarterback this season in Cleveland

With Week 1 of the NFL season kicking off on Thursday night in Denver and with the Dolphins’ opener now only three days away, it’s time to get some insight into Miami’s opponent this week, the Cleveland Browns.

Please welcome in Andrea Hangst, who is the AFC North lead writer at Bleacher Report, to answer some burning questions of mine regarding the Browns and Sunday’s game. Andrea touches on what to expect from Brandon Weeden this season, how Davone Bess is fitting in with his new team, her prediction for the game and more.

Follow Andrea on twitter for more Week 1 coverage and insight into all four AFC North teams given that the Dolphins play the entire division in 2013. My questions and her answers as follows:

Dolphins Gab: What do you make of Brandon Weeden’s development? Do you think his performance in the first two preseason games or his struggles in the third will be more indicative of his play this season?

Andrea Hangst:  I think the improved Brandon Weeden of the first two preseason games is more close to what we can expect from him in his second year rather than his disappointing third-week performance. The system he’s in now, with head coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner, plays into his strengths better than last year with Pat Shurmur and Brad Childress. There’s not only a focus on downfield passing but also more shotgun passes, which helps show off his strong arm and puts him in situations he’s more familiar with. Plus, with Trent Richardson heavily running the ball, the pressure on Weeden is lowered. He should have a solid year.

DG:  How is former Dolphins slot receiver Davone Bess fitting in with his new team? Could he be a difference maker on Sunday?

AH: Davone Bess has made Cleveland’s slot receiver job his own. He’s already made plays in the preseason and he’s fit in well with their existing group of receivers. This might have been the Browns’ best offseason signing. Weeden desperately needed someone reliable to throw to and Bess is the perfect receiver to help build Weeden’s in-game confidence. I think you’ll see his impact against Miami on Sunday.

DG: Who is one player on the Browns Dolphins fans probably haven’t heard of but will be very familiar with after Sunday’s game?

AH: That would be outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard. In Cleveland’s retooled defense that switched to a 3-4 under new defensive coordinator Ray Horton, Sheard should be a pass-rushing beast. With the Dolphins having issues on offensive line, expect Horton’s pass rushers to take advantage. Sheard is going to be in Ryan Tannehill’s face a lot this week.

DG: How improved do you expect a Browns defense that finished 23rd in the league last season to be in 2013?

AH: The only thing the Arizona Cardinals had going for them last year was the defense, and that’s all about coordinator Ray Horton’s attacking style. He’s brought that system to Cleveland and the personnel is perfect for them to replicate the front-seven success of the Pittsburgh Steelers, where Horton was once an assistant. They should have a much stronger pass rush that will help cover for any weaknesses in the secondary that may arise. This could be one of the better defensive units in the NFL by the time the season wraps.

DG: Finally, give me your prediction for Sunday’s game. Final score?

AH: I think that Cleveland’s defensive pressure will get the better of Miami’s offense, not giving Ryan Tannehill the opportunity to make big passing plays while also keeping running backs Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas well contained. I have the Browns winning, 21-17. Cleveland is a hard place to play on the road.

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