It’s beginning to look like the Miami Dolphins will attempt to clinch the AFC East crown without Xavien Howard starting on the right side of the team’s secondary. Coach Mike McDaniel announced on Tuesday that he’s considered week-to-week with a foot injury.
“The good news on [Howard] is that it doesn’t look like it will require surgery, what we found out today,” McDaniel said, “So that was good, and because of that, it’s kind of a week-to-week measure. We have to see how he responds. Feet at that position are just tricky. Each person’s different so we’ll take that with due diligence and press and assess.
“I am not planning for him to [be available on Sunday].”
Howard, 30, played just four snaps on Sunday before leaving the game on the cart. Eli Apple took over at left cornerback and was targeted four times in coverage. The former Ohio State Buckeye allowed three receptions for 104 yards and a touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens.
Apple started three games for the Dolphins this season. That said, McDaniel was also asked about the possibility of seeing Nik Needham or second-round rookie Cam Smith getting snaps at the boundary corner.
“I think Nik [Needham] is doing a great job in his role,” McDaniel said. “I think I’d be confident with him in various amount of roles. He’s a really smart football player, so he knows several positions. His teammates really hold him in high regard, so he’s doing a good job.
Lamar Jackson when targeting Kader Kohou, Jevon Holland or Duke Riley: 9-9 147 yards and 4 touchdowns — perfect 158.3 rating— Jake Mendel (@JMendel94) January 2, 2024
“I think Eli [Apple] has really been doing a good job as well. Cam [Smith], as a rookie at the corner position, he’s done what we’ve asked in terms of developing. Corners to me are kind of like quarterbacks where you have to be careful of – you’re hoping to put them in position where they’re not going to have results that would have scar tissue. It’s not anything he hasn’t done, necessarily. He’s developing really each month and each week, but there’s also some players that have earned the trust of their teammates on the field that compete every day.”
Opposing offenses average 213 passing yards against the Dolphins — that ballooned to 330 (and five touchdowns) against Lamar Jackson and the Ravens. Miami will enter Week 18 against the Buffalo Bills with a chance to clinch the AFC East and plenty of questions on the defensive end — but only 60 minutes to solve them.