Yesterday was a bit of an up and down day for the Miami Dolphins.
After initially reporting to training camp yesterday morning to a feeling of “maybe this will all work out”, All-Pro cornerback Xavien Howard officially requested a trade from Miami in the afternoon.
This news is not necessarily a surprise given Howard’s considerably well documented dissatisfaction with his current contract situation. There was hope among many, myself included, that Miami would be able to work out a contract restructure that would have kept Howard in Miami long term. As of now, that doesn’t seem to be the case and the secondary, once considered a definitive strength of this team, may soon have an All-Pro sized crater it must fill.
If Howard is moved, Miami will more than likely look internally to fill his starting spot opposite Byron Jones. While there could be a discussion about Jason McCourty filling in that role, Noah Igbioghene should be the guy that Brian Flores and company turn to replace Howard.
In his first year in Miami, Igbinoghene struggled to make a major impact on the field. In the few games that he started after an injury to Byron Jones, Igbinoghene looked underwhelming, to say the least. At times, he looked lost in coverage and confused about what opposing offenses were throwing at him. Unfortunately, he didn’t look like a first round pick. That isn’t all his fault, though.
While it Igbinoghene’s struggles can’t all be on the pandemic shortened offseason, it’s fair to say that the lack of real reps at training camp didn’t help.
Igbinoghene, like all rookies last season, had a truncated and complicated offseason, making the transition to the pros even harder, especially for those who still needed some fine-tuning to their game. Igbinoghene has all of the athletic characteristics to be a solid cornerback and may have just needed a more “normal” offseason to get into a groove. With more reps throughout training camp and going into his second season, there is no reason to believe that, at this point, Igbinoghene can’t be a good corner in this league.
Will he be able to play at the level that Howard has over the last few seasons? While that is unlikely, it is also a bit unfair in terms of expectations for a guy who is only in his second year as a pro. Can he transition into a competent corner who does more positive on the field than negative? I believe so, if given the chance.
If Howard is traded, which it looks more likely now more than ever, Noah Igbinoghene should be given a chance to start and Miami should allow him to fight through any growing pains to see if he is capable of living up to his first round status.