Xavien Howard had his fall-back-to-earth game Sunday, which was probably inevitable after spending the past dozen or so games in the stratosphere.
Howard, the Dolphins’ third-year corner, had his worst game in a long time, allowing all three passes thrown at him to be completed — two for touchdowns. That’s according to Pro Football Focus, which gave him the lowest grade of any Dolphins defensive player.
The touchdowns were the first he has allowed since Week 11 of last season, and just the second time he has given up three or more receptions in some 11 months.
“I did OK, but there’s always room for improvement,” Howard said of his game Sunday.
That improvement better come quick.
The Bengals have a scary group of receivers, led statistically this year by Tyler Boyd, who has 349 receiving yards and two touchdowns on 26 catches.
But of course, the focus of the Dolphins defense better be on A.J. Green, who has more touchdown catches than Albert Wilson, Jakeem Grant, Danny Amendola, Mike Gesicki and DeVante Parker combined.
“He’s a great player,” Howard said. “They also have [John] Ross, a couple of guys over there on the receiving corps that’s doing great things.”
With Bobby McCain out for a couple of weeks, the pressure falls even more on Howard to play at a high level. He has, by and large, met that challenge during the past year. He completely erased Raiders receiver Amari Cooper in Week 3, and don’t be surprised if the Dolphins ask him to do the same to Green.
““It’s part of the game, man,” Howard said. “It’s what I want to do. I consider myself a top corner, and I want to play against the best.”
Getting more help from his teammates wouldn’t hurt. Howard got picked on Cordarrelle Patterson’s long touchdown catch, and it seems that Minkah Fitzpatrick could have done more on the play. Instead of running with Patterson, Fitzpatrick came up to cover the flat, allowing for a wide-open throw.
“We’ve just got to communicate, be on the same page,” Howard said. “Some of the holes on the defense that we had seen. But it’s a new week, a new opponent that we’re facing in the Bengals. That’s what we’re focusing on right now.”