Dolphins on the Comeback Trail

The Miami Dolphins should get big contributions from their free agent newcomers and draft picks, but don't forget about the possible impact of injured players like Xavien Howard and Preston Williams
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When it comes to trying to figure out how much better the Miami Dolphins can be in 2020, regardless of final record, the first places most look are free agency and the draft.

That obviously makes sense considering the Dolphins added 11 veterans via free agency and 11 more through the 2020 draft, including quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in the first round.

But it's also important not to forget all the players who ended last season on injured reserve, players who missed some or most of 2019.

So when we talk about the Dolphins secondary and the impact free agent acquisition Byron Jones can make, we also should mention that Xavien Howard will be back after missing the second half of 2019 with a knee injury.

Before he landed on IR last year, Howard clearly didn't have the same kind of performance as he did in 2018 when he emerged as one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, which led to him becoming the highest-paid player at the position until Jones took over that distinction.

Howard underwent knee surgery late last year and his return to form will be as important for the Dolphins secondary as anything else. He posted a workout video on Instagram after the end of the season, though it has since been deleted and there have been no updates on his rehabilitation.

Another key player on the comeback trail is wide receiver Preston Williams, who was one of the team's most impressive offensive players in 2019 before his season ended with a knee injury in the November game against the New York Jets.

The injury occurred after Williams had his first two-touchdown game in the NFL to help the Dolphins record their first victory of the season.

Williams has spoken to the media a few times in the offseason, every time saying his recovery was on track.

In all, the Dolphins had 17 players on injured reserve when the 2019 regular season ended, and 13 of them remain on the roster.

Along with Howard and Williams, there's safety Bobby McCain, wide receiver Jakeem Grant, wide receiver Gary Jennings Jr., cornerback Ryan Lewis, running back Kalen Ballage, cornerback Ken Webster, running back Myles Gaskin, linebacker James Crawford, linebacker Raekwon McMillan, wide receiver Ricardo Louis,  and guard Danny Isidora.

The four who no longer are on the roster are veteran safety Reshad Jones; defensive tackle Gerald Willis; cornerback Aqib Talib, who was on injured reserve when the Dolphins acquired him in a trade with the Los Angeles Rams that gave them a draft pick in return for taking on Talib's salary; and defensive lineman Jonathan Ledbetter, who was placed on Reserve/Non-Football Injury List this offseason.

Additionally, free agent pick-up Kavon Frazier ended last season on injured reserve when he was a member of the Dallas Cowboys.

McCain said this week he had surgery in November and his recovery is progressing well.

Grant's 2019 season ended when he sustained an ankle injury at Cleveland on the final Sunday of November, but based on his Instagram videos of his workouts, he certainly looks like he's ready for game action.

He's another who could end up playing a key role after ending last season on injured reserve.