3 reasons why the Dolphins defense will be elite with or without Xavien Howard

Xavien Howard trade wouldn’t hurt Dolphins defense

By: Jake Rajala

The Miami Dolphins entered Week 17 with the number one scoring defense. In the Week 17 matchup against the Buffalo Bills, the Dolphins defense opened the floodgates and allowed a whopping 56 points. Nonetheless, the Dolphins defense finished the regular season with a fourth overall scoring defense. It’s safe to say the Dolphins defense had an impressive 2020 season. 

Headed into the 2021 season, Brian Flores has his defensive sights set on perfection. Brian Flores will be entering his second year and the Dolphins defense is filled with numerous beginners poised to take the next step. There is a catch, however. 

Xavien Howard, who was the NFL’s third ranked CB from last year, is holding out for a hefty contract. It seems very likely that Howard will be a Dolphin long term, but it’s not clear when he will return and if he in fact doesn’t get traded. There poses a real possibility of Howard missing game time next season.

With or without Howard, I believe the Dolphins defense will show up largely next season. I simply believe there is too much optimism to disacknowledge the fact that the Dolphins wouldn’t be a Top 5 unit in 2021.

Here are a few reasons why the Dolphins will flex an elite defensive unit next season. 

  • More efficient third down offense 

It’s very underrated that the Dolphins defense wasn’t just fantastic last year, but magnificent with a 26th ranked Dolphins third down offense. The Dolphins third down offense has been flat out horrific. The Dolphins offense routinely let the defense out to dry by giving them little rest with little third down efficiency.

It’s not disputable that the Dolphins should expect major change with their third down efficiency. The Dolphins signed prominent deep threat WR Will Fuller in free agency and drafted Jaylen Waddle, who’s drawn comparisons to Tyreek Hill. 

Fuller didn’t only have 14 receptions for 20+ yards, but he also had a ridiculous 16.6 YPC last year. Waddle had his own 16.9 YPC in Nick Saban’s offense last season, which helped his teammate DeVonta Smith gain more production and his team ultimately win the National Championship. Waddle is expected to more than a major asset to the Dolphins offense by some reputable networks. Roll Tide Wire foresees Waddle as the Dolphins MVP in 2021.

  • Jerome Baker

The leading Dolphins tackler in 2020 was none other than Jerome Baker. NFL analyst Bucky Brooks has Baker pegged as one of NFL’s most underrated talents. The third year LB didn’t only record 112 tackles, but also a monstrous seven sacks from the LB spot. 

Baker clearly flourished as the ILB in Flores scheme and his athletic ability showed to be atop the NFL’s best. Expect Baker to remain one of the top all around LBs in 2021 as he earned a well paid contract extension this offseason.

  • Traded for Benardrick McKinney

The Dolphins may be missing talent at the CB position on Day 1, but the defense will have more playmaking ability elsewhere. Flores added another high end ILB to the defense with the trade acquisition of Benardrick McKinney. 

McKinney is an excellent complement to Baker at LB, as he excels against the run and pass. In McKinney’s Pro Bowl season, he displayed a 105 tackle mark, 1.5 sacks, 5 TFLs, and seven pass deflections.

The Dolphins could be missing Xavien Howard in September, but they will still have the very talented Byron Jones at CB, followed by a dominant LB duo of McKinney and Baker.

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