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90-in-90: Miami Dolphins roster breakdowns, CB Xavien Howard

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90 Dolphins players in 90 articles. Let’s make sure we know our roster from top to bottom. It’d be a shame if ESPN knows us better.

NFL: Miami Dolphins at New York Jets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, our esteemed leader, Kevin Nogle, wrote the introduction to my article on Xavien Howard. Thanks Kevin!

(It’s nice when someone shuts me up, right?)

Let’s get to the tape...

Xavien Howard, 6’1”, 198

Game Tape - #25

During the 2-minute drill in the 1st half, Week 1. Looks like the Fins are playing a Tampa 2-ish type coverage (cover 2 with MLB playing deep 1/3). Shows smart transfer in his assignment, reacts quickly to the underneath route, and tackles him quickly.

Coming from Baylor, I had this idea that he’d be a bit of a “finesse” player. Howard’s tackling and run support were outstanding in 2016, and definitely surpassed my expectations. He’s a willing tackler and demonstrates above-average instincts diagnosing the play.

Bottom of screen. He gets a little flat-footed for a second, but closes the gap in a hurry. Gets his hands to the catch point and causes the incompletion.

Not afraid to tackle, gets his left hand in and punches the ball out.

Why He Might Succeed

Howard fits the size/length prototype the Dolphins front office seems to value on the boundary, but he has the requisite movement skills as well. He’s got quick-twitch and decisive reaction speed, and this is all under the umbrella of a knee injury that bothered him for over 1/2 of the 2016 regular season. What’s his ceiling when healthy?

I absolutely love him in run support.

He faced AJ Green and Brandon Marshall among others last year. Granted, there were mixed results, but I like rookies that are battle-tested and he’ll be able to take that experience with him into his sophomore campaign.

Why He Might Not

He’s competing against other young men who are just as hungry: Tony Lippett and Cordrea Tankersley, both tall, long guys on the boundary. The only separation from these 3 on the depth chart will be determined by competition and production, because trait-wise, they’re near carbon copies of each other and none of their contracts or draft statuses give them added cushion over any of the others.

The Seattle Seahawks definitely picked on him in the Week 1 match-up, hence why he had 11 combined solo and assisted tackles. Seattle targeted him with quick slants and in/out breaking routes and option routes within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage. I’d like to see him near the line of scrimmage more and use his size/speed combo to disrupt route timing - it’s hard to decipher if the Dolphins employed “off coverage” with such frequency because we couldn’t jam WR’s well, or if it was simply part of the game plan.

If he were to lose snaps due to injury again, it’s hard to tell how long he might be on the outside looking in.

Odds of Making Roster

99%. He’ll be in the thick of the CB competition, and even if he loses, we saw last year how important depth in the secondary is. His development this year give us insight to the growth of this young, defensive nucleus we have in Miami going forward.