Cornerback Xavien Howard has been on the field for 100 of the Miami Dolphins‘ 113 snaps in the last two weeks. During that time, opposing quarterbacks have barely looked his way — and when they have, they’ve regretted it.
He and Jalen Ramsey have totally erased the wide receiver position from the opposing offense’s game plan recently.
“I ran a lot of cardio today,” Washington Commanders wide receiver Terry McLaurin told NBC 4 after the Dolphins held him without a catch for just the second time in his career Sunday.
Terry McLaurin after no catches – “I ran a lot of cardio today.”
— JP Finlay (@JPFinlayNBCS) December 3, 2023
Don’t Overlook Miami Dolphins CB Xavien Howard
Certainly, the Commanders could have tried harder to get McLaurin involved (he was targeted just three times). But it’s hard to blame Washington offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy for not challenging Howard and Ramsey Sunday.
It’s been largely a fruitless effort since Ramsey made his Dolphins debut in Week 8. Over the last month, Miami ranks first in both defensive EPA per play (-.207) and in dropback EPA (-.244).
Opposing quarterbacks over the last five games have averaged just 6.4 yards per pass attempt while targeting wide receivers.
And Howard has led the way.
While he hasn’t had the splash plays in 2023 that defined the early part of his career, he’s likely never been better from a down-in, down-out coverage standpoint.
Since Pro Football Reference began tracking advanced defensive stats in 2018, Howard has never had a lower yards per target (5.8), yards per completion (8.7), and DADOT (9.9) average. And his passer rating against — 79.1 — is spectacular, considering he has picked off just one pass this year.
Opposing teams are finding some success against him on the short stuff (his completion percentage against entering Week 13 was a career-worst 65.9%), but the Dolphins will gladly trade those underneath yards for a corner who has allowed just one touchdown pass in 44 targets.
Howard’s a major reason why the Dolphins are tied for ninth league-wide in adjusted yards per attempt (6.5). And with the offensively challenged Tennessee Titans and Jets up next, there’s no reason to believe that will change anytime soon.
“We’re special, we can be special,” Howard said post-game Sunday. “Guys on the back end were starting to pick it up and make plays, but the whole defense is special.”
The data suggest he’s right.
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