Dolphins' pass D exposed by Browns, highlighting two huge offseason needs

CLEVELAND -- Jarvis Landry simulated a dog after his second touchdown reception, pumping up the Cleveland Browns' Dawg Pound crowd. He was having a season-best performance against his former team Sunday, and he was milking every moment. His team is flourishing on a three-game win streak while his former squad is just trying to find positive pieces for 2020.

The Browns are at least two years ahead of the Miami Dolphins, after following a similar path. Miami is in the midst of the pain, and another blow came with a 41-24 loss to the Browns.

Promising play by a couple of relative unknowns in the secondary during a two-game win streak provided some false hope regarding the state of Miami's secondary. There's still a long way to go, and it starts with filling the defense's two biggest needs that should be addressed this offseason: more pass-rush talent and at least one more starting veteran defensive back.

Only one defensive back -- special-teams ace Walt Aikens -- playing for the Dolphins on Sunday had played for the team before this season. The rest are all essentially rookies in a defense that centers on communication, sound assignments and versatility.

And the pass rush was missing again as the Dolphins had just one sack and two QB hits -- the third consecutive game Miami has finished with one sack or less.

The loss of starting safeties Bobby McCain and Reshad Jones to injured reserve this week showed up in a big way as Baker Mayfield had the third 300-yard game of his season (24-of-36 for 327 yards, three touchdowns, one interception and a season-high 118.1 passer rating).

Quarterback breakdown: It's Ryan Fitzpatrick's 37th birthday, and he gave hints of the roller-coaster play that has defined his career. He threw two interceptions, including a cross-body poor decision in the fourth quarter.

But Fitzpatrick also threw the 199th and 200th touchdowns of his career, making him the 44th player in NFL history to reach that threshold. He also added another rushing touchdown when he lowered his shoulder and dived in despite a closing defender.

Fitzpatrick adds enough every game to make the Dolphins' offense look interesting for a drive or two, but ultimately the holes on the offensive line, running game, receiving corps and sometimes Fitzpatrick's own limitations are often too much to overcome. That was the case again on Sunday.

As the Dolphins' season clearly becomes more about 2020, there might be more calls for Josh Rosen to get playing time. Miami coach Brian Flores has continually indicated Fitzpatrick is his starter, but he kept the door open for a change. Fitzpatrick has done nothing to lose his job yet, but the possibility is still alive as the season continues.

Biggest hole in the game plan: Letting Landry and Beckham go wild. The Browns' elite receiving duo combined for 16 catches, 236 yards and three touchdowns. Dolphins coaches talked all week about stopping those two, but there was nothing done to slow them down.

Landry's 10 catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns were an eye-opening glimpse at how the Dolphins can be exposed in the slot.

Bold prediction for next week: Patrick Laird is elevated to become the Dolphins lead back in touches and snaps next Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Kalen Ballage has dominated the Dolphins' backfield since Mark Walton was suspended, and subsequently released last week, and the Dolphins continue to show faith in him despite his 2.0 yards per carry average.

Coaches believe yards per carry is a team stat, but sooner than later they will want to give somebody else a bigger shot.

Our prediction is that it will be sooner -- Sunday.