Following a monumental 2018 campaign in which he tied for the most interceptions in the NFL, Miami Dolphins Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard was unable to build off his momentum in 2019.
However, fresh off surgery, Howard, who only played in five games last season, is destined to return to his All-Pro form in his second year under Brian Flores’ defense.
By the end of the 2018 season, Howard earned his first Pro Bowl invitation and had instilled himself as one of the league’s top lockdown corners. He matched Damontae Kazee and Kyle Fuller for a league-high seven interceptions. Unlike Kazee and Fuller, who played 16 games, Howard appeared in just 12 games and missed the final four games of the season.
The 6-foot-1, 198-pound corner also recorded 12 pass deflections, which ranked No. 20 in the league that year. Howard’s bawl-hawking skills earned him a lofty five year, $76.5 million extension with $46 million guaranteed that summer. The deal made him the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL at the time.
The 27-year-old Howard, who is under contract with the Dolphins until 2024, was poised for another year of stardom, but nagging knee injuries prevented that.
He appeared in only five games in 2019 before undergoing knee surgery shortly after landing on the injury reserve. Nonetheless, a chain of abysmal performances from Miami’s secondary ultimately translated to that of Howard’s game. Compared to 2018, where he allowed 52.4% (33/63) of passes targeted to him to be completed, Howard permitted 65.4% (17-26) this past season.
The 2016 second-round pick registered 17 tackles (12 solo), defended four passes, and one interception last season.
When healthy, Xavien Howard offers Miami a superior corner. However, through four years with the team, he’s only managed to put together one full 16-game slate due to recurring injuries.
The Dolphins have invested a great deal of money into Howard, and if he’s able to bounce back to his All-Pro level, he and free-agent signing Byron Jones could combine to form one of the franchises top cornerback tandems since Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain. From 1998-2004, the Madison-Surtain connection linked up for 58 interceptions and four touchdowns.
The Howard-Jones combination will surely impose damage to offenses that face Miami in 2020.