Expected to be a starter for the Miami Dolphins in 2017, Xavien Howard is about to have the most important season of his life this year. Suffering from injury problems for most of his rookie campaign, Howard was limited to just seven games played and six starts last season for Miami. If he wants to be the breakout player Dolphins fans expect him to be, this year will be key to his success.
Drafted in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Dolphins, Miami even traded up to land the cornerback out of Baylor. However, suffering multiple injury problems, Howard was placed behind the curve for the entire season. That said, the fact that he was a starter for six games doesn’t really push him forward as both Tony Lippett and Byron Maxwell were extremely inconsistent.
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Recording six pass deflections and one forced fumble in his seven games last season, Howard also added 40 tackles to his name. This season though will continue to be trial by fire for Howard. As the most talented cornerback on the roster, Howard should earn the number one role. That said, he will be challenged almost every game until he proves that he can make plays.
With the recent addition of Cordrea Tankersley through the NFL Draft though, the pressure is now on Howard. Any other year, Tankersley would have been a candidate for a first round selection. Nabbed in the third round, Tankersley has the look of a potential day one starter in Miami. Such a move could potentially cost Howard his starting job if he is not careful.
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Considering both Howard and Tankersley are extremely young, it would be hardpressed for me to imagine both earning a starting nod over both Lippett and Maxwell. In my mind, should Tankersley earn the starting nod, then either Maxwell or Lippett will be the number two cornerback with the Miami Dolphins.
Overall, this season will be the most important of Xavien Howard’s career. He has to prove this year that he has the talent and skill needed to succeed in the NFL and will also not be a liability for the Miami Dolphins. Should he fail to do this, his tenure with the Dolphins could be short lived.