The Dolphins were already paper thin at cornerback. Now they’ve lost starter Xavien Howard for three to six weeks because of meniscus surgery, reports Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. Howard – who suffered the injury in practice this week – previously underwent surgery on the same knee in June, which caused the rookie second-round pick from Baylor to miss all of training camp and the preseason.
Despite his inability to get on the field during the summer, Howard led all Dolphins corners in snaps (304) over the season’s first four weeks. Among Dolphins defensive backs, only standout safety Reshad Jones (314 snaps) has seen more action than Howard this year. Howard amassed 28 tackles, two passes defensed and a forced fumble in his first four NFL games (all starts), with Pro Football Focus ranking his performance a subpar 83rd among 111 qualifying corners.
Part of the reason Howard has been on the field so much in Year 1 is the Dolphins’ lack of capable corners. Their most proven option, big-money offseason pickup Byron Maxwell, is amid his second straight underwhelming campaign. That earned the former Seahawk and Eagle a demotion prior to Miami’s 22-7 loss to the Bengals in Week 4. Maxwell didn’t play a snap in that game, but he’ll return to a prominent role against the Titans in a battle of 1-3 teams on Sunday. Joining him will be Tony Lippett, who has played 67 snaps this year. All of those snaps came versus the Bengals, against whom Lippett picked up his first pro start. However, Cincinnati’s top receiver, A.J. Green, torched the 2015 fifth-rounder from Michigan State.
Maxwell aside, the only Dolphins corner with much of a track record is Chris Culliver, who’s on the physically unable to perform list and hasn’t played this year. Culliver is still recovering from the torn ACL he suffered as a Redskin last November, but head coach Adam Gase expects the sixth-year man to factor into the Dolphins’ secondary when he’s eligible to return after the sixth game of the season.
“He’ll be in the conversation very fast,” said Gase.
Miami’s defense will enter Sunday ranked 20th in DVOA against the pass, 23rd in YPA allowed (7.9), 24th in quarterback rating against (98.4) and tied for 31st in interceptions (one).
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