When speaking to the media, Xavien Howard is a man of few words, but a former first-round pick earned some praise from the 2020 first-team All-Pro.
On Tuesday, Howard was asked if a young player’s progress stood out since the 2022 season ended.
“I like Noah [Igbinoghene],” Howard said. “He’s come in with a different mindset, I feel like. He’s making plays and he’s also learning.
“I feel like he’s more locked in, locked in.”
Igbinoghene, still just 23 years old, has struggled to maintain consistent playing time since being drafted by the Dolphins with the No. 30 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. The former member of the Auburn Tigers played in 32 games throughout his three-year career.
He earned his first-career interception against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Oct. 23. The interception of quarterback Kenny Pickett derailed a late surge by the Steelers.
igbinoghene’s game-winning interception pic.twitter.com/RSERwjNKLL— josh houtz (@houtz) October 25, 2022
Igbinoghene earned a 51.8 PFF grade for the 2022 season but also logged a 72.5 run-defense grade, along with a 76.4 pass-rush grade in Josh Boyer’s blitz-happy defense. While he allowed six of eight targets to be caught against the Steelers, he didn’t allow more than one reception in the other six games he played in.
Despite moving on from Byron Jones, Miami continued to load up in the secondary. Not only did the team acquire Jalen Ramsey from the Los Angeles Rams, but also selected Cam Smith in the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Additionally, both Nik Needham and Trill Williams will look to secure playing time after injuries derailed the 2022 season. That being said, at just 23 years old, it’s far too early to give up on a former first-round pick — especially when considering Miami’s lack of depth in the secondary last season.
If Igbinoghene continues with this momentum and proves he deserves playing time, suddenly Vic Fangio will have to juggle between five or six capable cornerbacks — an issue any defensive coordinator would love to have.