Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard has spent all season justifying his massive contract.
Although all eyes are seemingly on rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, more should pay attention to Howard. A ball-hawking cornerback in his fifth year with the Miami Dolphins, Howard is grabbing interceptions at an excellent pace.
Interceptions don’t always justify how dominant a defensive back is playing. However, it is hard to dispute that Howard is making Dolphins coach Brian Flores a happy man this year.
Xavien Howard is the Dolphins’ ballhawk corner
A second-round pick from Baylor in 2016, Xavien Howard has grown into a tremendous player on the Miami Dolphins’ defense.
Through Dec. 15, 2020, Howard snagged 21 interceptions and broke up 52 passes through his first five seasons. Howard has been a full-time starter since 2017 and an impactful figure in Miami.
Howard signed a five-year, $76.5 million contract with $46 million guaranteed in May 2019. Had Howard re-upped with the Dolphins, he would have hit free agency this past spring.
Howard signed that contract at the right time. He missed most of last season with a knee injury, a problem that could have cost him a great deal of money if he entered free agency in March 2020.
Howard is having a tremendous 2020 season
The Miami Dolphins have an excellent chance to make the postseason, and Xavien Howard has been a major reason why.
Howard snagged an NFL-high nine interceptions and broke up 17 passes in the Dolphins’ first 13 games. Miami’s defense has forced a league-best 25 takeaways, and the Dolphins’ +10 turnover differential are tied for second-most in the NFL.
Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers have a league-high 11 more turnovers forced than giveaways.
According to Pro-Football-Reference, Howard has only allowed quarterbacks to complete 47% of the passes they’ve thrown his way.
Quarterbacks have hit 39 of the 83 passes for 550 yards against Howard, who has allowed four touchdowns in coverage.
Xavien Howard is proving the Miami Dolphins correct
Judging cornerbacks on their interception tally is an ineffective way to evaluate how well they’ve played in a given season.
However, Xavien Howard passes the eye test, and he has more than justified why the Dolphins are paying him $11.9 million this season. According to Spotrac, Howard will make at least $12 million in total cash every year from 2021-24.
If the Miami Dolphins hope to reach the postseason, they will need Howard to dominate over the final three weeks. Miami is 8-5, entering a challenging three-game slate to finish the 2020 season.
Miami hosts Cam Newton and the Patriots (6-7) in Week 15, the Dolphins’ final home game. The Dolphins end their season with consecutive road games at Las Vegas (7-6) and Buffalo (10-3).
Miami has not made the playoffs since Howard’s rookie season in 2016.