The Dolphins are back in the win column! To keep playoff aspirations with a reasonable grasp, Miami will have to put up a good fight against the team’s divisional overlord from the north. New England has routinely smacked the Dolphins left and right but has had trouble racking up the W’s in Hard Rock Stadium. The Dolphins will hope to keep that home-field momentum going this weekend, but must stymie New England’s vaunted pass catching corps in order to do so.
Each week of the 2018 season, I’m highlighting one player on the opposing team that Dolphins fans should be watching out for. This week, that player is New England Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon
Experience: 5th season
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 225 lbs
Since being traded to New England from the Cleveland Browns at the start of the season, Gordon has been one of Tom Brady’s top weapons in the Patriots’ aerial attack. In nine games, Gordon has corralled 34 receptions for 605 yards and three touchdowns, providing Bill Belichick with a big-bodied deep threat on the perimeter who can both stretch the defense and beat opposing defenders at the point of attack.
Gordon’s 17.8 yards per catch ranks fifth in the league, showing that he is one of the most dangerous big-play pass catchers in the game. Given Miami’s propensity for giving up big gains this season, as exemplified in the team’s games against the Chicago Bears, Houston Texans, and Indianapolis Colts, keeping Gordon for making any splash plays will be a must for Miami’s defense.
Picking the matchup to watch out for here is easy. Gordon is New England’s #1 wide receiver. Xavien Howard is Miami’s #1 cornerback. In his third season, Howard has quickly developed into one of the league’s premier defenders. He sits alone atop the league in interceptions with seven and snagged four in the last two games (two apiece against Andrew Luck and Josh Allen). He’s also cut down on giving up back-breaking plays down the field, something he struggled with earlier in the season. Howard picked Tom Brady off twice when the two teams met at Hard Rock Stadium last season and helped lead Miami to an upset victory.
Belichick had a lot to say this week when asked about going up against Howard. “He does a very good job, really, in all areas of pass defense,” Belichick explained. “He’s good at the line of scrimmage. He’s disruptive. He does a good job of getting his hands on the receivers and making it hard for them to get into the route cleanly. He’s got good length. He’s good down the field. He has quickness to match routes and has good vision.”
The future Hall of Fame coach did not stop there. “He’s been able to make some plays this year where he’s gotten a real good break on the ball, or in some cases even come off the man that he was guarding when the ball was in the air to get to somebody else. He’s got real good ball skills. He’s had a couple of outstanding interceptions this year where he’s either seen the ball late or had to make an acrobatic catch to intercept it. It’s usually the kind of plays you see from a receiver more than a defensive back.”
Josh Gordon v Xavien Howard will be one of the most intriguing matchups across Week 14’s slate of games. Get your popcorn ready. This one should be good.
UPDATE: Xavien Howard is questionable for Sunday’s game with a knee injury.