Dolphins might be required to play without a key player.

Dolphins might be required to play without a key player.

 

Is there a young Dolphins cornerback who is prepared to replace Xavien Howard, who might have to miss Sunday’s game against the Eagles due to a groin injury.

The Miami Dolphins secondary may give the franchise a preview of what’s to come this Sunday night when they play the Philadelphia Eagles.

In last Sunday’s 42-21 victory over the Carolina Panthers, Xavien Howard suffered a groin injury.
If history repeats itself, and this one persists as long as the one he played through last year, the Dolphins may find it advantageous to sideline the four-time Pro Bowl cornerback for a few weeks.

“We’ll monitor X’s response to treatment and how he settles down.
Head coach Mike McDaniel described Howard, who opposing quarterbacks have a 76.05 passer rating when throwing at receivers he is defending this season, as “just normal weekly question marks that we have to figure out.”.

This passer rating is the highest in Miami’s secondary, which has allowed opposing quarterbacks to have the sixth worst passer rating in the NFL this season (98.9).

Howard suffered from two groin strains in 2022, and following the campaign, he acknowledged the strains had an effect on his performance.
Since the Dolphins want to keep him healthy for the entire season, they might not treat him the same way they did last year, when they let him play through the pain.

If Howard is expected to play on Sunday, he might only be allowed to participate in one practice this week, similar to how he missed one last week for what the team described as veteran rest.
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Or the Dolphins could completely sideline him, as they did with center Connor Williams, who overexerted himself after returning to play just one week after suffering a groin injury and reinjuring himself.

Every player with a groin injury this season has typically been given at least one full week of rest by the Dolphins.

Eagles present difficult opposition.

Howard would help the Dolphins this week against the Eagles, who have one of the best receiver tandems in the NFL in A and B.
J.
Together, Brown and DeVonta Smith have accounted for 70 receptions, resulting in 1,005 yards and four touchdowns.

Since Stefon Diggs decimated Miami’s defense three weeks ago by scoring three touchdowns in Miami’s 48-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills, Brown, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, is the best receiver the Dolphins have faced.

The Dolphins would be forced to rely on seasoned cornerbacks Kader Kohou, Eli Apple, Justin Bethel, Parry Nickerson, Kelvin Joseph, and possibly rookie Cam Smith if Howard is unavailable for that game.

 

The cornerback unit must perform better.

While Apple and Bethel have filled in as either the third cornerback or the dime cornerback throughout the season, Kohou, a second-year starter, has been playing as a boundary and nickel cornerback.
Nickerson entered the running last week to replace Bethel as Miami’s dime cornerback.

 

The Dolphins’ second-round draft pick in 2023, Smith, played in the secondary for the first time this year on Sunday, taking four snaps at the conclusion of Miami’s victory over the Panthers.
Because it appears that he hasn’t gained the confidence of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, the Dolphins have been extremely cautious about using the former South Carolina standout in the defense.

Sam Madison, the defensive pass game coordinator, who has some experience playing the position, asserts that Smith’s biggest problem has been his inconsistent play.

“From college to the pros, it’s all in the small details,” the speaker said. I don’t care if it’s in the building early or out of the building late, just being consistent with those types of things,” said Madison, who played 12 seasons in the NFL, primarily with the Dolphins, before transitioning to a position coach in 2019.
“The youngster has some talent; you just need to build on it and make it work.”.

Uncertainty surrounds Howard’s future.

 

What happens to Howard this week could have effects that go beyond this season.

Howard is due $18.5 million in 2024, $3 million of which is a roster bonus, so a lot depends on how well he performs in 2023.
He will be the fifth highest paid player on the roster, behind Tyreek Hill, Jalen Ramsey, Tua Tagovailoa, and Bradley Chubb, at that salary.

Not only is Howard’s $3 million roster bonus due on March 18, which is five days into the free agent signing period, but $4 million of his salary also becomes guaranteed on that day.

If he is released with a June 1 designation, the Dolphins could free up an equivalent amount of cap space.
If the Dolphins’ decision-makers believe they can find a cheaper or better cornerback, trading Howard, who just turned 30, is also an option.

The only thing that might keep Howard in South Florida is if he has another successful season and demonstrates that he is deserving of his salary.

Maintaining his health is a requirement for that.

 

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