Miami’s Xavien Howard is one of the NFL’s best and highest-paid cornerbacks, but he had a rough 2019 with his season cut short due to injury and having an off-field incident. Here are Howard’s odds at Mybookie to win 2020 NFL Comeback Player of the Year as well as the Dolphins’ over/under win total.
Howard was a second-round pick in the 2016 draft by Miami out of Baylor. He won a starting job immediately in camp despite some injuries and finished with 40 combined tackles (29 solo) and six pass breakups in eight games (all starts). In a Wild-Card loss to Pittsburgh, Howard had five tackles, broke up two passes, and made his first career interception off of a pass attempt by Ben Roethlisberger.
That set up a terrific 2017 season when Howard started all 16 games. He finished with 48 tackles (42 solo), 1 sack, 4 interceptions and 13 passes defensed. His four picks were tied for 8th in the AFC and 12th in the NFL. In a game against Denver, he picked off Trevor Siemian and returned it 30 yards for a TD.
In the next matchup vs. Tom Brady and the Patriots, Howard picked off Tom Brady twice to become 1st player in Dolphins history to have multiple interceptions in consecutive games and 1st player to intercept Brady twice in the same game since Indianapolis’ Mike Adams on Nov. 16, 2014. Howard was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week.
In 2018, Howard missed the final four games due to injury but still had 35 tackles (25 solo), 7 interceptions, 12 passes defensed and 1 fumble recovery. The seven picks were tied for the NFL lead and he set a Dolphins single-season record with 3 multi-interception games. Howard was named to his first Pro Bowl and first second-team All-Pro.
Before last season, the Fins signed Howard to five-year, $76.5 million contract extension with $46 million guaranteed, making him the highest-paid cornerback in the league at the time. Alas, Howard played in just five games due to a knee injury and had 7 tackles (12 solo), 1 interception and 4 passes defensed.
Howard was arrested by the Davie (Fla.) Police Department on a domestic battery charge Dec. 29, just hours after the Dolphins pulled off a season-ending upset victory over the Patriots. Howard was accused of grabbing his fiancée’s arms and pushing her against a mirrored glass wall in the hall of their bedroom, causing her to fall and land on his walking crutch.
However, Howard was cleared of legal discipline in this matter in early February when Broward County prosecutors dropped the charge. Howard’s fiancée signed an affidavit of non-prosecution and told prosecutors that she didn’t want to proceed with the case and did not fear for her safety going forward. Because there were no other witnesses, prosecutors felt they couldn’t proceed with the case without testimony from her.
Howard still potentially faced league discipline under the NFL’s personal conduct policy at that time, but he has been cleared and is now expected to form one of the NFL’s best cornerback duos with big-money free-agent signing Byron Jones. The team also invested a 1st-round draft selection into the secondary, adding DB Noah Igbinoghene to man the nickel cornerback role on defense.
The addition of Jones will only help Howard. Jones has just two career picks but was only thrown at 64 times last season (and barely gave up 50% completions against him in coverage). Last year when Howard was on the field it was easy for teams to throw to the other side of the field. That won’t be the case this season.
Howard offers Miami a dominant option at cornerback when healthy, but in four years with the team he’s only managed to put together one full 16-game slate due to recurring knee injuries. The soon-to-be 27-year-old is optimistic that his December procedure will eliminate the lingering pain he had in his knee.
The Dolphins are 7-point underdogs for Week 1 at New England.