Xavien Howard's evolution in Vic Fangio's scheme fuels Miami's playoff aspirations

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With a disappointing end to the 2022 season, the Dolphins went into the offseason with more questions than answers. Many of these questions were on the defensive side of the football. Miami finished the season 28th in coverage and 14th in total defense. The Dolphins parted ways with defensive coordinator Josh Boyer and began their courtship of Vic Fangio. After months of speculation, Vic Fangio signed with the Dolphins to be their Defensive Coordinator.  

Miami’s Xavien Howard had much to prove following a disappointing 2022 season.  Xavien had arguably his worst statistical season in 2022 as a Dolphin.  Howard allowed the second most receiving yards with 826 and the third most yards after catch with 387.  Quarterbacks had a 121 QB rating when throwing against Xavien Howard.  This wasn’t the shutdown corner Miami fans, and the NFL were used to seeing.

Howard spent most, if not all, of the 2022 campaign battling a groin injury.  Many around the league felt Howard had lost a step. Nonetheless, Howard played through injury and made zero excuses for his performance.

The start of the 2023 season looked like a continuation of 2022.  Through his first 3 games, quarterbacks had a 94.3 QB rating when throwing in Xavien’s direction. During this time, quarterbacks were completing 74% of their passes and Xavien had allowed 1 touchdown with only 1 pass breakup. An argument can be made, like the rest of the defense, that X was still adjusting to Fangio’s new defense.

Fast forward to week 14, and it looks like Xavien Howard and the Miami defense are finding their groove with Vic’s new defense. Miami is currently third in overall defense and 5th in coverage.  Even Miami's tackling has improved under Vic Fangio.  The Dolphins have gone from 27th in the league in 2022 in tackling to 21st in 2023.  In his own right, Xavien Howard is looking like the shutdown corner of old.

In his last 4 games, Xavien is holding opposing quarterbacks to a 64.6 QB rating. Wide receivers are only catching 46% of their targets and are averaging 2.5 catches per game. Receivers are only averaging 8 yards after catch and 21.5 yards per game. Xavien and the Dolphin defense are believers in Vic Fangio’s scheme. In an interview with Joe Schad of the Palm Beach Post, Xavien had only good things to say about the new defense.

Ultimately, Miami’s success will depend on Tua’s health and Vic Fangio’s defense.  As the defense continues to get better Xavien continues to evolve. Can Xavien Howard help lead this Miami defense through a deep playoff run? Xavien’s evolution on defense will only help Miami’s Super Bowl aspirations.  How far Miami goes, is soon to be determined.