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Dolphins 2022 Review: CB Xavien Howard

Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard made the Pro Bowl, even though his season wasn't up to his standards

With the Miami Dolphins’ season coming to an end after a loss to the division rival Buffalo Bills in the wild-card playoff round, it's time to review the 2022 performance of some of the team’s best players.

This series will include each player’s stats, best game, worst game, positives, negatives and outlook for the offseason.

Xavien Howard, Cornerback

Stats: 1 interception, 12 passes defended, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 touchdown, 45 combined tackles

Best Game: 30-15 Win vs. Texans

This game gets the nod for two reasons. One, Howard scored his only touchdown of the season off a fumble return, which put the Dolphins ahead 27-0.

Additionally, it was the only game this season where Howard didn’t allow a single catch in coverage, according to PFF. He was only targeted twice, but Howard was playing tight coverage throughout the game.

His performance in Week 18 merits some recognition just for the sheer fact he finished with a season-high three passes defended.

Worst Game: 23-17 Loss vs. Los Angeles Chargers

There were a couple of games in consideration in this spot. The Chargers game wins out for two reasons. First, Howard allowed all five of his targets to turn into catches, and he gave up 106 yards receiving.

He gave up more yards against the Bengals (119) and against the Vikings (110), but a lot of those yards were the result of yards after the catch.

Against the Chargers, only 22 of the yards Howard allowed were after the catch. That means wide receivers were simply beating him in coverage further down the field.

The importance of the Chargers game also holds some weight in this conversation. It was a prime-time game against a fellow AFC wild-card contender, and Howard struggled mightily.




Positive Takeaways

Howard had a tough 2022 season. However, there was one positive takeaway — his availability.

He played in 15 games this season, and although he frequently appeared on the injury report throughout the season, Howard was available for the Dolphins this season.

Once believed to be too injury-prone, Howard has now played in at least 15 games three seasons in a row, something he did only once in his first four seasons.

Howard was also named to the Pro Bowl this season despite his down season, proving he’s highly regarded around the NFL thanks to his track record of success.

Negative Takeaways

Howard’s reaction to making the Pro Bowl indicates even he knows 2022 wasn’t his best season.

"I was surprised," Howard said. "It's an honor to be in the Pro Bowl and be consistent with it. But I feel like there were a bunch of plays I left out there on the field. I feel like I can get better. And be better."

He’s right; there were a bunch of plays he left on the field this season. Howard finished with a 101.2 passer rating allowed, which was the second-highest of his career, second only to 2019 when he played just five games, according to Pro Football Reference.

Howard made a name for himself by creating turnovers. He finished with 10 interceptions in 2020 and five in 2021, but he produced just one in 2022. Even Howard’s passes defended took a dip this season.

He finished with 12, which was down from 20 two years ago and 16 last season.

PFF grades are not the end-all-be-all for player evaluation, but Howard’s 55.2 coverage grade was the lowest of his career, and the film would indicate that wasn’t an unfair number.

Howard seems to have regressed quite a bit in 2022. Perhaps it was just a down season for the usually solid cornerback, but if his turnovers don’t make a return to normal levels in 2023, it might be time to question whether time has finally caught up with Howard.

Offseason Outlook

Although Howard had arguably one of the worst seasons of his otherwise mostly stellar career, he will be back with the Dolphins, and they will rely on him to be a shut-down corner next season.

However, the question this offseason will be whether 2022 was an aberration or the start of a trend.

He’s 29 years old, and 30 is typically considered the drop-off point for cornerbacks. This is especially concerning for a player like Howard, who relies on creating turnovers and thrives in man coverage.

Some corners, like Richard Sherman, are capable of milking a couple more years of production out of their clearly aging bodies by playing sound zone coverage and keeping receivers in front of them.

Neither of those things is Howard’s strength. He’s a risk-taker who relies on remarkable make-up speed to create turnovers. Although Howard hasn’t missed a lot of games in recent seasons, he was on the injury report plenty this season, which is another factor in this discussion.

The good news is there’s a realistic version of history where Howard takes the offseason to refocus, and he returns to form in 2023. 


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