It's amazing what a difference five days made for the Miami Dolphins pass defense, in particular cornerbacks Noah Igbinoghene and Xavien Howard.
The two came up with strong performance in the 31-13 victory against the Jaguars after a tough afternoon in the loss against the Buffalo Bills.
This obviously was significant in the short term because of what it meant against Jacksonville, but there also were long-term implications for the Dolphins secondary.
For Howard, he looked a bit more like the cornerback who made the Pro Bowl in 2018 when he became one of the best in the NFL at the position.
For Igbinoghene, the game against Jacksonville showed he has the ability to put behind a tough outing, a prerequisite for becoming a successful NFL cornerback.
Now, this is the part where we stop and tell you that not everything was and is perfect with either of them.
Howard had a blooper moment in the second half when he failed to notice that a pass over his head had been completed near the sideline and got up and made an emphatic "incomplete signal."
He also had tracking issues on a long pass to wide receiver Chris Conley, though he got bailed out when Conley dropped it.
And, finally, while he is looking progressively better, he still doesn't quite look like the 2018 version of himself yet.
As for Igbinoghene, he was bailed out by an errant throw from Gardner Minshew II when he was badly beaten by Conley near the line of scrimmage for what should have been an easy touchdown for Jacksonville.
But, again, it was overall an encouraging outing for both.
"I expected both guys to bounce back," head coach Brian Flores said Friday. "X is a mentally tough guy; so is Noah. We’ve got a lot of mentally tough guys on our team. They practice hard. They prepare for the game. They play with great energy. They played as a team. I wasn’t surprised that they bounced back. They’re prideful guys. We have a lot of prideful guys on this team, especially at that position. Look, you’ve got to have a short memory to play really any position in this league. There’s a lot of good players. Occasionally they make plays on us and we make plays on them. You’ve got to be able to just move on to the next play, next game, and try to be better, which they were last night.”
As he did in earlier interviews this year, Howard says he's doing just fine physically and deflected questions about how close to his 2018 form he feels he is.
“I feel like I’m just improving each game and just focused on just staying healthy and trying to get better each year," Howard said. “I feel great. I’ve played three games so far, so I feel good.”
With Howard, it's important to note he played every defensive snap against Jacksonville. He did reach for the back of his leg after making his first interception of the season in the fourth quarter, but he explained that the issue was cramping.
Igbinoghene also played all 66 defensive snaps against Jacksonville as he filled in for Byron Jones.
The free agent acquisition missed the game because of a groin injury, and the timetable for his return is unknown.
What is known is that the Dolphins are counting on their cornerback corps to be a force for the defense, and the game against Jacksonville certainly was an impressive step in that right direction.