It’s only been 3 games. Howard hasn’t set any records yet. He has not even come close to his own career highs but Dolphins CB Xavien Howard appears to be picking up right where he left off during the second half of last season.
When the Dolphins first drafted Howard, I’ll admit, I wasn’t that high on him. Other than, Thomas Everett, when was the last time Baylor produced a solid DB in the NFL? Sure, he had the size to be an outside corner but there were higher graded CB’s still available. Kendall Fuller out of Virginia Tech and Mackensie Alexander out of Clemson had not been drafted yet. Alexander was grading out as a first-round pick. These were some of my initial thoughts when the Dolphins first selected Howard 38 overall in the 2016 draft.
The Dolphins did have a need at CB. At least, that part I understood. Considering that the 2016 draft class was loaded at CB, I felt I at least owed it to the Dolphins front office and coaching staff to give this guy a chance. Because in reality, the Dolphins hadn’t had a true shutdown corner in a long time.
Xavien Howard pretty much had zero competition as he has been a starter ever since he entered the league. I mean, there was former Dolphins CB Tony Lippett but Lippett was a 5th round pick. He shouldn’t have been able to beat out Howard.
Howard finished 2016 with 40 combined tackles (29 solo), 6 pass breakups and one interception in 8 games. He was out half the season with a knee injury. In 2017, it wasn’t until week 13 against the Broncos that Howard started to come to life for this team. He had a combined 48 tackles (42 solo), 13 pass deflections, 4 interceptions and a sack. But, those 4 interceptions came in games where the Dolphins went on a brief winning streak. So far this season, Howard has 3 tackles (1 solo), 4 pass deflections and 3 interceptions. But, here’s the thing. Two of those interceptions have come at critical times in games.
The first one was against the Jets in Week 2. The Dolphins were up 20-6 but the Jets were trying to make it a one score game deep in Dolphins territory. Howard intercepts the ball in the end-zone negating that drive. In Week 3, something very similiar happened. Dolphins were up by 4. The score was 21-17. Dolphins DE Cameron Wake puts pressure on Raiders QB Derek Carr but Carr is able to get the ball off. Howard basically out-muscles Raiders WR Martavius Bryant for the ball and just like that it’s another touchback interception for Howard this season.
Dolphins are on a 3-game winning streak so far this season. Case in point, when Howard plays well, the team plays well. Howard has turned this non-believer into a believer. Howard is the team’s most valuable player right now. There are currently 14 players on my impact analysis but few have had as big an impact as Xavien Howard has had right now. Seriously, Dolphins GM Chris Grier needs to get on the phone with Howard’s agent and start the process of a contract extension because Howard is quickly becoming a marquee player for us.