Barry Jackson

An Oakland receiver started talking to Xavien Howard. Here’s what happened next

Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard (25) intercepts a pass against Oakland last Sunday. He has seven interceptions in his past eight regular-season games.
Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard (25) intercepts a pass against Oakland last Sunday. He has seven interceptions in his past eight regular-season games. adiaz@miamiherald.com

A six-pack of Dolphins notes on a Saturday:

Some gentle advice: Don’t trash talk with Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard, who has seven interceptions in his past eight games – most by any NFL cornerback in that time span – as well as an absurdly impressive 32.2 passer rating against this season.

He said that during this eight-game stretch, only Oakland receiver Martavis Bryant trash-talked him. Howard started the conversation by cracking to Bryant that one of his catches was ”weak.”

Then Bryant said, “Come guard me.” Howard did, and promptly picked off a Derek Carr pass intended for Bryant

“My confidence is at an all time high,” he said. “I want to make teams pay whenever they throw at me.”

One big difference with Howard: He now spends several hours a week watching film on his own, beginning with the opponent’s entire previous game and then close-ups of all of the opponent’s receivers.

CBS’ Rich Gannon, the former NFL MVP quarterback who works Sunday’s Dolphins game with Kevin Harlan, asked CBS producers to show highlights of the “grit” factor with Ryan Tannehill on Sunday – in other words, plays where he’s diving for first downs and plays that show “the inner toughness about him.”

Gannon, by phone, said: “You could say he doesn’t have Aaron Rodgers’ arm or Drew Brees’ release, but he’s getting better. You look at his production, his toughness, his perseverance, his moxie, his grit. He’s got a lot of the intangibles you like. He’s making big plays with his arms and his legs. You take away his best lineman, one of best receivers and it’s [somehow] helped. He’s coming into his own. I’m proud of the work this kid has put in.”

Gannon, speaking on the AFC, said “there are two teams that jump out to me when you look at precision, execution, team speed” – the Chiefs and Dolphins.

“Jakeem Grant is a much better receiver,” Gannon said. “The secondary has a chance to be pretty good. Minkah Fitzpatrick is going to be really good. But the linebacker position is a work in progress and William Hayes [lost for the season] was their best interior run defender.”

One challenge remains finding enough snaps for five quality receivers.

Albert Wilson played 10 of an unusually low 44 offensive snaps, and Grant only nine.

After last Sunday’s game, Oakland corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie approached Grant and said: “Nineteen, I like the way you play.”

Incidentally, offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said Gase studied Wilson’s college tape at Georgia State when he was crafting a package for him this past spring.

With Miami preparing to play his former team on Sunday, Dolphins special teams ace Brandon Bolden said he’s surprised how similar the two teams go about things – beyond personality differences of their head coaches. (Adam Gase is considered a player’s coach, as Bolden said. Bill Belichick is not.)

“It’s crazy being in one building and going to the next building and you say, ‘it’s not that far off.’” He said both staffs are equally demanding.

The Dolphins decided not to make a move with their 53-man roster by Saturday’s 4 p.m. deadline and will have only two healthy tight ends this week: Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe.

The Dolphins had the option of promoting Nick O’Leary from the practice squad to the 53-man roster but ultimately decided against it.

“He’s trying to learn things as fast as possible,” Adam Gase said Friday of O’Leary, who caught 32 passes for 473 yards in three seasons for Buffalo.

“He has game experience, obviously. I remember him scoring a touchdown against us. That was the first thing that came to mind. I remember when he came out, I remember evaluating him and really liking him as a pass catcher. He’s impressed me as a run blocker as well. We’ll figure out what we’re going to do here. It’s a large volume to learn really fast when you play that position. There’s just a lot of moving parts, so we just have to assess where we’re at.”

The Patriots listed 11 players as questionable - including Rob Gronkowski, Josh Gordon and Patrick Chung - though they assuredly know which of the 11 are likely playing.

Has the fact the Dolphins have had injuries at multiple positions make them rethink keeping four quarterbacks on the 53-man roster?

“No,” Gase said. “It just is what it is. Nobody likes it, but I do.”

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

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