Barry Jackson

Dolphins’ Howard expecting ‘big jump’; Dolphins notes

Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard (25) walks off the field in the second quarter as the Miami Dolphins host the Tennessee Titans at Hard Rock Stadium on Thursday, September 1, 2016.
Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard (25) walks off the field in the second quarter as the Miami Dolphins host the Tennessee Titans at Hard Rock Stadium on Thursday, September 1, 2016. adiaz@miamiherald.com

A few non-hurricane related Dolphins notes on a Tuesday:

• Xavien Howard, limited to six games because of injury and victimized in coverage during his rookie season, suggests fans can expect a different player.

“Big jump,” he said of his progress. “I had to overcome a lot.”

With last year’s two knee surgeries behind him, Howard said he has improved in coverage, especially in press coverage. Former coordinator Vance Joseph allowed him to play mostly press coverage last season and he said new coordinator Matt Burke will permit that to continue.

The root of his improvement is partially based in “having confidence in myself.” He feels full confidence in the knee and has a better handle of his assignments.

Howard allowed a bloated 104.6 passer rating in his coverage area last season. That needs to come down significantly.

Considering his skill level, should the Dolphins expect high-level cornerback play from him all season?

“If you ask him, he would say yes,” coach Adam Gase said Tuesday. “As coaches you are never going to get ahead of yourself. You don't try to jump the gun and say this is where he's compared to the rest of the guys. I like how he's worked. I like how he's developed. We want to keep him healthy and keep him rolling.”

Whenever Miami plays Tampa Bay - the game is in question because of Hurricane Irma - the Dolphins will need to deal with two top receivers: DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans.

With Jackson, “you always feel like he's going vertical and he hits the breaks and gets seven yards of separation,” Gase said. “With that speed and quickness, it's a tough matchup.”

• There was talk in the offseason that this could be something of a redshirt season for Dolphins third-round rookie cornerback Cordrea Tankersley.

Tankersley doesn’t want to hear it.

"There is no such thing as a redshirt in the NFL,’ he said. "I showed [in preseason] I can play at this level."

Because of Tony Lippett’s season-ending Achilles’ injury, Tankersley becomes the Dolphins’ No. 4 boundary cornerback - behind Xavien Howard, Byron Maxwell and Alterraun Verner, not necessarily in that order.

He hopes to get defensive snaps this season but “we have good cornerbacks who deserve to play.”

Tankersley was very good in preseason, limiting quarterbacks to a rating below 40 in his coverage area.

“I showed I can compete with the best of them,” he said.

Gase said what the 6-1 Tankersley showed in preseason is “what we were expecting when we drafted him. To play that position you are always hoping for acceleration and every guy you go against are all fast and physical. It can be a little change of pace for you.

“His big thing is size and speed and being physical at the line of scrimmage. When you get those smaller, quicker guys, how are you going to handle that? And take advantage of that? It's been a good learning process for him. He has to go against so many body types. every day is a different battle for him.”

Tankersley said he knew one knock against him was tackling - he didn’t believe that criticism was particularly fair - but said he is a better tackler than when he arrived.

“He’s a height, weight, speed guy,” NFL Net’s Mike Mayock said. “He can run fast. He’s a press corner. He’s the least interested defensive back in this entire draft supporting the run.”

Tankersley, who had a combined eight interceptions in two years as a starter at Clemson, said he was not to blame for a long Dalvin Cook run in the FSU game that Mayock watched in forming that scathing run-defense assessment.

“In both Alabama games, I tackled well,” he said.

• Gase was asked the thinking behind the four-year, $24 million extension to safety T.J. McDonald, who previously was suspended by the NFL for the first eight games of the season.

Gase said the message to McDonald when he signed was “just do right and work hard and show that you're a fit here. Anyone that has seen him practice and play, there wouldn't be too many people arguing [that].”

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