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Dolphins gamble at Xavien Howard, making him the highest paid cornerback in the NFL | NFL analysis

By Austin Gayle & bullet;Miami Dolphins & bullet;Xavien Howard & bullet; May 10, 2019 Miami Dolphins' brass are all officially all at Xavien Howard. Per ESPN's Adam Schefter Miami signed Howard for a five-year period, $ 76.5 million on $ 46 million guaranteed on Thursday night, making him the highest paid cornerback in the NFL. The record-breaking extension follows what was a career year for the 2016 second round, as Howard gained career heights in total grades (77.3), defense class (83.6) and coverage (75.3) over 803 defensive snaps in 2018. However, Howard's career has been scared by ups and downs. Among the 114 NFL corner slopes that were targeted 100 or more over the past three years (2016-18), he ranks only 58th in coverage (70.3), 42th in compulsory percentage (15.9%) and 42nd in laps allowed per cover tab (1.10). The Baylor product with 6 feet, 1, 192 pounds has ideal size, length and athletics to play press men and thrive in the NFL, but the results are inconsistent. He's flashed elite games in press people in bursts throughout his career, but his three-year rating in the men's coverage, both on and off the line of scrimmage, is undermining. He has earned 30.0 and 29.9 degrees of coverage in the press man in 2017 and 2018, respectively, largely because his high point games are often followed up by punishment. [Editor’s Notes: To view all of Xavien Howard‘s career grades and advanced stats, check out his player page in Premium Stats 2.0!]…

Miami Dolphins’ brass are all officially all at Xavien Howard.

Per ESPN’s Adam Schefter Miami signed Howard for a five-year period, $ 76.5 million on $ 46 million guaranteed on Thursday night, making him the highest paid cornerback in the NFL. The record-breaking extension follows what was a career year for the 2016 second round, as Howard gained career heights in total grades (77.3), defense class (83.6) and coverage (75.3) over 803 defensive snaps in 2018.

However, Howard’s career has been scared by ups and downs. Among the 114 NFL corner slopes that were targeted 100 or more over the past three years (2016-18), he ranks only 58th in coverage (70.3), 42th in compulsory percentage (15.9%) and 42nd in laps allowed per cover tab (1.10).

The Baylor product with 6 feet, 1, 192 pounds has ideal size, length and athletics to play press men and thrive in the NFL, but the results are inconsistent. He’s flashed elite games in press people in bursts throughout his career, but his three-year rating in the men’s coverage, both on and off the line of scrimmage, is undermining. He has earned 30.0 and 29.9 degrees of coverage in the press man in 2017 and 2018, respectively, largely because his high point games are often followed up by punishment.

[Editor’s Notes: To view all of Xavien Howard‘s career grades and advanced stats, check out his player page in Premium Stats 2.0!] [Editor’s Notes: To view all of Xavien Howard‘s career grades and advanced stats, check out his player page in Premium Stats 2.0!]

Only five NFL corner slopes have been penalized for a higher proportion of their goals over the past three seasons than Howard, and a sharp majority of his coverage penalty is a product of becoming too physical or grabby in the press’s coverage. In fact, 18 of the 21 coverage penalties he has committed in his career have been called when he has been in the press’s coverage.

If we remove Howard’s penalty in man’s coverage from the equation, his three-year coverage has jumped from 56.8 to 77.3.

Implementing penalties at Howard’s price will always have a negative impact on a cornerback’s coverage in the PFF system, which makes it not surprising that he has earned better ratings in Zone coverage throughout his career. His play in the zone is not much better and still very much inconsistent, but there are fewer bad games on his tape when he handed over the sun deck responsibility to the man.

In 2018, Howard allowed 11 receptions from 22 goals for 131 yards, zero touchdowns and only four first downs in Cover-2, Cover-3 and Quarters look. He also logged four compulsory incompletes, including two interceptions, and was ranked 12th in coverage (81.4) among corner slopes with 20 more goals in this year’s cover. His 26.8 fit rating in the three covers led all qualified cornerbacks in the last season.

Pay attention to his goal on 10-plus-zonde-covered aircraft in the past season, and his 70.2 coverage and 26.7% forced imperfection rate rank 14th and 8th, among 80 qualifications.

The same natural ability (ie, size, length, freedom, speed) that made Miami determined to make Howard an elite pressman NFL shows in his zondeking play. And he is less likely to punish when he is removed from the frequent one-to-one situations that he will find when playing the man’s coverage.

While all teams want their version of Stephon Gilmore – the NFL’s highest rated cornerback in total and in the squeeze man a year ago – the new Dolphin’s defensive coordinator Brian Flores doesn’t take him to South Beach. And as much as Flores wants Howard to fill Gilmore’s shoes in the Miami defense without a hitch, more harm than good will follow if he can’t lift Howard’s physicality and dispose of absurd punishment.

The safer game is to limit Howard’s snaps in the press man and choose his battles for him depending on the matchup, giving him less opportunity to see flags threw his way and more opportunity to have high floor production in off-zone coverage. The aggressive game, the likelier with the two options with Flores to the helm, is to knock on Howard which improves in year 4 as a result of far fewer penalties and lockdown man coverage over all matchups.

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