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Miami Dolphins 2020 Position Preview: Cornerbacks

Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Following an abysmal defensive outing last season, the Miami Dolphins heavily invested in their defense during the 2020 NFL offseason. With the additions of free-agent cornerback Byron Jones and first-round draft pick Noah Igbinoghene, Miami’s defensive back group looks to become one of the best in the league.

As the 2020 NFL season is on the horizon, here’s a preview of the Dolphins’ cornerbacks:

Nik Needham 

(Photo courtesy of Mark Brown/Getty Images)
  • Age: 22
  • Height: 6-foot
  • Weight: 193-pounds 
  • College: UTEP
  • Drafted: 2019 Undrafted
  • Contract: 2 years at $1,080,000 (final year of contract)

Needham worked his way onto the Dolphins roster the hard way. He proved himself by going from being undrafted, to the practice squad, then ultimately being promoted to the active roster on October 12, 2019.

Needham had a respectable rookie season, finishing with 54 tackles, two interceptions, a sack, and forced fumble. He was also the Dolphins’ leader in passes defended with 11 in just 12 total games played. Needham will look to build on his performance for his rookie year. With this being a contract year, he could be a very dangerous player to opposing offenses in 2020.

Tae Hayes 

  • Age: 23
  • Height: 5-foot-9
  • Weight: 188-pounds 
  • College: Appalachian State
  • Drafted: 2019 Undrafted
  • Contract: 2 years at $1,080,000 (final year of contract)

Hayes joined Miami on December 13, 2019, after being waived by the Jacksonville Jaguars. As a late-season addition, Hayes only appeared in two games for the Dolphins where he had a total of seven tackles. Hayes is on the bubble with the injured Miami cornerbacks returning this year.

He’ll have the opportunity to make the practice squad or even provide depth to the active roster. 

Ken Webster 

  • Age: 24
  • Height: 5-foot-11
  • Weight: 203-pounds 
  • College: Mississippi
  • Drafted: 2019 Round 7 (No. 252 overall) by New England Patriots 
  • Contract: 4 years at $2,594,576 (second of contract)

Webster was claimed off waivers by the Dolphins on September 1, 2019, after being waived by the New England Patriots on August 31, 2019. He appeared in eight games and started five in 2019.

Webster’s best outing came in a 37-31 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 13, in which he collected seven tackles. Webster finished the season with 19 tackles and a pass deflection before being placed on injured reserve on December 10, 2019, ending his season. 

Webster was added to the Dolphins roster to provide depth. This was a smart move as Miami suffered multiple injuries to the secondary in 2019. Expect him to serve the same role in 2020. 

Nate Brooks 

  • Age: 24
  • Height: 6-foot
  • Weight: 192-pounds 
  • College: North Texas
  • Drafted: 2019 Undrafted
  • Contract: 2 years at $1,080,000 (final year of contract)

Brooks is another addition with a New England connection. The Dolphins signed him to their active roster on December 10, 2019, from the Patriots practice squad.

Leading to the signing, Miami had suffered multiple injuries to their cornerbacks. He played in three games for the Dolphins and started two of them. Brooks finished the season with 11 tackles. Someone in this bunch will be the odd man out when the season starts. Brooks will need to outperform the other defensive backs that are on the bubble.

Jamal Perry

  • Age: 25
  • Height: 5 ft 10 in
  • Weight: 180 pounds 
  • College: Iowa State
  • Drafted: 2017 Undrafted
  • Contract: 2 years at $1,080,000 (final year of contract)

Perry also has a connection to the Patriots and Brian Flores. Perry won Super Bowl LIII with them in 2018. As a member of the Miami Dolphins, he has played in 14 games and started six. Perry finished the 2019 season with 59 tackles and one interception against Sam Darnold and the New York Jets.

Perry is expected to be in the rotation for the Miami Dolphins attempting to build off of last season.

Ryan Lewis

  • Age: 26
  • Height: 6-foot
  • Weight: 190-pounds 
  • College: Pittsburgh 
  • Drafted: 2017 Undrafted
  • Contract: 2 years at $1,080,000 (final year of contract)

Lewis was claimed off waivers by the Dolphins on October 15, 2019, after being waived by the Philadelphia Eagles. After joining the franchise, Lewis played in eight games and started three.

He recorded the first interception of his career last season against Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns. Lewis’s season was cut short, finishing on the Injured Reserve list. He totaled 28 tackles on the season. Lewis will be looking to return healthy and play a role with the Dolphins in 2020.

Cordrea Tankersley 

(Photo Courtesy of Winslow Townson, AP Images for Panini)
  • Age: 26
  • Height: 6 foot-1
  • Weight: 200-pounds 
  • College: Clemson
  • Drafted: Round 3 (No. 97 overall) by Miami Dolphins
  • Contract: 4 years at $3,176,288 (final year of contract)

In 2017, Cordrea Tankersley made a name for himself after playing well against Michael Thomas of the New Orleans Saints. So much so that it helped Tankersley earn the starting spot opposite Xavien Howard. Many have envisioned this duo to become one of the top cornerbacks in the league for years to come. 

Tankersley finished his 2017 campaign injured and has struggled to stay healthy since, limiting his 2018 and scratching his 2019 seasons. Tankersley heads into his contract year, so he’ll be playing as if his career depends on it. If a healthy Tankersley can return to his 2017 form or better, the Dolphins will have even more options in the Flores defense that relies on versatility and disguising schemes. 

Noah Igbinoghene 

  • Age: 20
  • Height: 5 ft 11 in
  • Weight: 200 pounds 
  • College: Auburn
  • Drafted: 2020 Round 1 (#30 overall) by Miami Dolphins

Igbinoghene was the Dolphins’ surprise first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. After an offseason full of secondary additions and the return of players from injury, the draft experts saw the cornerback position as an area of strength rather than a need for the Dolphins.

However, head coach Flores has stated multiple times that you can never have too many good defensive backs in today’s NFL. Igbinoghene will be given the opportunity to earn the third cornerback spot on Dolphins roster. 

Igbinoghene was impressive in college. He started all 13 games his junior year, totaling 42 tackles (one for loss) and seven pass breakups. He’s also capable on special teams and may see time as either a punt or kick returner. 

Byron Jones 

  • Age: 27
  • Height: 6-foot-1
  • Weight: 200-pounds 
  • College: Connecticut 
  • Drafted: 2015 Round 1 (No. 27 overall) by Dallas Cowboys 
  • Contract: 5 years at $82,500,000 (first year of contract)

Jones was considered the top cornerback available on the free-agent market and Miami signed him to what was at the time the highest-paid cornerback contract in the league. This was a surprise for many also as Miami already had a cornerback on the roster that previously held the title of highest-paid.

The signing of Jones indicates that Miami has a clear vision of what type of defensive schemes they will be running in 2020. 

Jones excels in man-to-man and press coverage. However, his lack of takeaways emerge as a concern. Jones has not secured an interception since 2017. Even more eye-popping is he only has two for his entire career.

On the other hand, this further solidifies how great of a player he is to garner such respect without the flashy interceptions. Jones is expected to continue to be one of the top cornerbacks in the league with the Miami Dolphins.

Xavien Howard 

  • Age: 26
  • Height: 6-foot
  • Weight: 198-pounds 
  • College: Baylor
  • Drafted: 2016 Round 2 (No. 38 overall) by Miami Dolphins 
  • Contract: 5 years at $75,250,000 (first year of contract)

Howard has battled with injuries leading back to his rookie year with Miami in 2016. Nonetheless, whenever he was on the field he displayed why he’s one of the best in the league. In 2018, Howard had the best year of his career, garnering a league-high seven interceptions in only 12 games.

Howard battled injuries once again last season but showed flashes of what made him great at every opportunity. In his final game of the season, Howard recorded an interception against the Pittsburgh Steelers before ultimately getting hurt and shutting down his 2019 season.

The world is waiting to see how good the pairing of a healthy Howard with Jones pans out.

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