The Dolphins inserted Xavien Howard into the starting lineup Sunday. They might not ever take him out of it.
Howard, the rookie corner who missed the first three preseason game with a knee injury, took first-team reps for the first time Sunday. He looked fluid while running and broke up two passes while in coverage.
“It felt good just to be back, making plays,” said Howard, who added: “I don't even worry about the knee no more.”
Barring a setback, Howard will play in Thursday’s preseason finale against the Titans, coach Adam Gase said. So will running back Kenyan Drake, who has been dealing with a hamstring injury.
“I think they’re in good shape but obviously it’s not dynamic football shape right now,” Gase said. “Probably ‘X’ is a little ahead of Drake. We’ll have probably a set number of plays they can go and try to stay in that range, not go over. We don’t want to overdo it. I think right now they need to play.”
With a strong showing this week, Howard will likely start Week 1 in Seattle. Tony Lippett and Bobby McCain struggled in coverage against the Falcons.
With Drake back, the timing couldn’t be worse for Isaiah Pead’s hamstring injury. Gase said Pead “is probably going to be out a couple weeks,” complicating his chances of making the team.
“It's tough,” Gase said. “You've got to figure out the right thing to do. Has the film and what the guy's done in practice enough to say, 'Hey, you've made it and we're going to have to carry you?’”
Pead was one of eight Dolphins to miss practice Sunday due to injury. The others: Ndamukong Suh (ankle), Mike Pouncey (hip), Jelani Jenkins (knee), Earl Mitchell (calf), quarterback Matt Moore (concussion), defensive end Terrance Fede (knee) and linebacker James-Michael Johnson (thigh).
▪ Jenkins, who had his knee scoped over the weekend, is “week to week,” Gase said. “It’s going to be about how quick he can get his strength back.”
▪ On Suh, who hurt his ankle in the Falcons game, Gase said: “With the practice structure we had today we just thought we’d rather him stay inside and get a little bit healthier instead of getting him out there on the turf for, what did we do, like three periods with offense/defense.”
Unlike many NFL coaches, Gase intends to play some of his starters in the final preseason game.
Cameron bounces back
Jordan Cameron had his best practice of his year Sunday. Cameron caught two passes, including a touchdown, in a two-minute drive.
After he scored, Cameron’s teammates mobbed him to celebrate -- a nice moment for a player dogged by drops this preseason.
"It was fun,” Cameron said. “It was fun to get the two-minute drill going and to be successful and get some confidence back. I don't know why they did [the celebration]. I was like, 'What is going on right now,' but it's always good to enjoy that with your teammates."
Cameron said “it felt like” the demonstration was directed as much to the media as it was him. Cameron has been criticized for his performance this preseason.
“Obviously that’s a guy all those guys really like and really care about,” Gase said. “... He made a couple of good plays in that series, you could see Ryan [Tannehill] is going to go to him. He knows he has a great matchup sometimes, especially it’s on a linebacker or safety, so he’ll keep getting opportunities.”