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Xavien Howard injury behind him, rookie ready to contribute in Dolphins’ secondary

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Michael Ainsworth AP

From the very beginning of the Adam Gase Era, it appeared obvious what the Dolphins’ biggest weakness was heading into the season, their secondary. If Miami intended on competing in 2016, they would need to repair their last line of defense, which finished among the bottom of the league in 2015. All hope would fall on Vance Joseph and his staff to groom players , solidifying the defensive backs in the Dolphins’ secondary.

Prior to the draft, Miami acquired veteran-cornerback Byron Maxwell from the Eagles, who the Dolphins penciled in as the team’s starting cornerback. Bobby McCain will be the Dolphins’ primary slot corner, which leaves one major void opposite of Maxwell in the secondary. With Howard out for the majority of preseason, Tony Lippett was given every opportunity to win the starting spot, but his inexperience at the position was noticeable as preseason progressed. With the season just two weeks away, it is now Xavien Howard’s opportunity to “carpe diem” and become everything the Dolphins desire opposite of Maxwell.

Earlier in the offseason, I did a film breakdown on second-round cornerback Xavien Howard. What I saw was a physical cornerback, with the all the intangibles to excel in the National Football League. Through the first three weeks of preseason, the Dolphins remained patient, allowing Howard to recover from a knee injury. However, when Miami traded up to draft the 6-1 cornerback, with the 38th pick in the draft, expectations were at an all-time high. The team expected Howard to start immediately on the perimeter, and that’s exactly what he intends on doing.

During Sunday’s practice, Xavien Howard was working with the first-team defense, and according to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, the Dolphins plan on starting Howard this Thursday vs the Titans. Barring any major setbacks, all signs point to Howard remaining the starter, heading into the Dolphins’ Week 1 opener in Seattle.

If the Dolphins plan to be successful in 2016, they need Xavien Howard to transition seamlessly into the starting role. His first chance will be Thursday vs Tennessee, with a big test vs Seattle in Week 1. It won’t come without ups and downs, but the Dolphins believe Xavien Howard is exactly what they need, to help solidify their woeful secondary.