At the NFL level in particular, there is no position more difficult to play on the defensive side of the ball than cornerback. Dolphins second-year corner Xavien Howard has found out this year just how difficult it really is.
A second-round draft pick out of Baylor in 2016, Howard has yet to pick off a pass since joining the Dolphins and according to the numbers crunchers at Pro Football Focus, only one cornerback in the league has graded out worse than Howard has this year.
Howard sits near the bottom because of a long run of games similar to the one he had Monday night against the Panthers, who completed five of seven passes for 87 yards and three touchdowns against him during their 45-21 blowout victory.
The Dolphins remain confident, however, that Howard will bounce back.
“He’s a short-term memory guy,’’ coach Adam Gase said of Howard. “He’s not going to worry about what happened on his last throw. And (on) that last one, there’s not many guys that are going to defend that.’’
The last of the three touchdown passes Howard gave up came on a back-shoulder throw in which Panthers quarterback Cam Newton hit wideout Devin Funchess right in stride down the left sideline.
Howard had Funchess covered with inside position for much of the route but lost the battle when Funchess turned back to make the catch at the 11-yard line, leaving Howard in what ESPN analyst Jon Gruden described as an “impossible position.”
For the second time tonight…
Cam to Funchess!
— NFL (@NFL) November 14, 2017
Gase saw it pretty much the same way.
“That was a really well-run route,’’ Gase said. “The guy did a great job of keeping his speed, and that was as good of a back-shoulder fade as I’ve seen, because that thing was on a rope.
“That was the perfect throw, a perfect route and a well-executed play. And to me, that’s the job of a corner. You’d better have short-term memory. If you’re not getting beat, you’re not playing.
“I mean it’s going to happen. It’s very rare you’re going to see corners that never have gotten beat. The best ones have. And he’s a good player and he’s going to keep playing hard and he’s going to play tight coverage.
“And when you’re a young player, as long as you don’t lose confidence, you’re eventually going to make those plays because you’re going to get more experience.’’