Why Miami Dolphins think Big 12 didn’t fully prepare Xavien Howard

Miami Dolphins have high hopes for former Baylor cornerback Xavien Howard, who needs to stay healthy and continue to learn NFL concepts. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

The greatest challenge Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard faced last season was overcoming two knee procedures before his rookie season was even complete.

But Howard, Miami’s second-round draft choice from Baylor, faced another under-the-radar challenge, according to coach Adam Gase.

Howard played most of his games in the Big 12 conference.

“There are some things that we do need to get better with him,” Gase said. “You know, just his overall knowledge of football. You know, the conference he came from and they’re so spread out and you know I mean it’s wide open passing game and when you get in the NFL, all of the sudden, you start getting these stacks and bunches and teams are doing all these types of bunches, some of these things he’s never seen before. So there is a learning curve there.”

The Dolphins believe if Howard can stay healthy, he has Pro Bowl potential.

“Not really having a training camp and then missing a ton of time during training camp, that probably hurt him,” Gase said. “Because he was really learning on the fly from week to week and trying to figure out, ‘OK how does this work with this defense called?’ So we have some development to do there. This spring is going to be big as far as his development. Keep him learning and developing as far as what he’s seeing throughout his career. The long he plays the better he’ll get.”

Miami knows Howard has all the physical tools to make a significant impact.

“‘X’ did a good job with the things that we asked him to do,” Gase said. “One thing you’re never really sure with corners is whether they can tackle. We were able to check that box pretty quickly. We know he can play man to man coverage. Which in this league is a premium on guys, especially on third down.”

Gase paused when asked about the jump he expects Howard to make in 2017.

It’s all about Howard staying healthy and learning more football concepts.

“It’s tough for me to predict anything,” Gase said. “I just want to see him go through an entire spring and stay healthy and just keep learning football. Seeing as many concepts as possible. That’s what we need him to do. That’s how he’s going to keep getting better is just playing. Going against his receivers. That’s a good matchup, day in and day out. When you’ve got a group of young guys that can compete and see different concepts. It’s a fun thing to go through in the spring.”

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