By: Chip Turner
The growing discontent between All-Pro Cornerback Xavien Howard and the Miami Dolphins reached a new level on Tuesday evening, as Howard officially requested a trade. Howard and his agent are seeking a re-worked contract, and the Dolphins seem unwilling to acquiesce. So how did we get here, who’s to blame, and how will this all end?
How We Got Here:
Before the 2019 season, the Miami Dolphins extended Howard’s contract, making him the highest-paid CB in the league. He played in only 5 games in 2019, going on injured reserve in November. In 2020, however, Howard was completely healthy, and fulfilled the All-Pro potential the Dolphins invested in in 2020. His $12mm salary became fully guaranteed on March 19 of this year.
None of this is part of the disagreement. The disagreement, according to Howard’s statement Tuesday evening, seems to center around two main points:
1- Guaranteed Money: Xavien Howard has essentially received all of his guaranteed money from the Dolphins, and he’s looking for assurances in 2022. According to Howard, the 2019 contract was one that “he didn’t fully understand, or feel comfortable with.” (As a side note, I’ll suggest that Xavien word his statements a little more carefully in the future.)
2- Salary rank: Xavien Howard specifically mentioned in his statement that he’s the second-highest paid CB on his own team. So here we are – the situation has not been resolved, Howard states he doesn’t feel valued or respected, and has requested a trade.
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Who’s To Blame:
In this situation, as with many in the past, there is a bit of blame to spread around. Let’s get the first part out of the way, because the prevailing line of thought that keeps getting brought up is this: Nobody forced Xavien Howard to sign that contract in 2019. And that’s absolutely correct. So a good portion of that falls on Howard himself, as well as his former agent Damarius Bilbo. The issue with the contract is that if Howard has a down year, or if he’s badly injured (and there is decidedly an injury history with Howard), the Miami Dolphins owe him nothing in 2022. They can release Howard with less than a $3mm cap hit. (Note: There is a $6mm injury clause that kicks in if he’s unable to pass a team physical in 2022.)
At the time of the signing, the 2019 contract was short-sighted for Howard. Today, I’m sure it looks terrifying. The “not even the highest paid CB on my own team” bit simply doesn’t sit as well with me. It’s not as though Byron Jones is a scrub; he’s been an outstanding corner for years, and he signed with Miami more recently.
On the other hand, reports (and Howard’s side of the story) seem to indicate that the Dolphins simply do not want to set a precedent of re-working contracts this soon after signing. Again, this is understandable, but short-sighted if true. It’s understandable to not want to set a precedent, but the value Xavien Howard’s play brought to Miami’s defense didn’t just outperform his 2020 contract; it obliterated it. His 10 interceptions were an indicator of how well he played, but he was far more than just gaudy numbers; he completely shut down whomever he lined up against in man coverage.
If the Dolphins could have resolved the situation by adding guaranteed money around, or a small increase in pay, and they didn’t, then this is a case of cutting of their nose to spite their face. The difficulty is that we’re mostly working with one side of the story here; the Dolphins front office hasn’t gone public with their version of what has occurred. That in itself makes the situation worse; it certainly appears that the Dolphins tried very hard to keep discussions behind closed doors. Then, when negotiations stalled, Howard and his new agent David Canter went public with their displeasure. I suspect that did not go over well with the Dolphins front office.
And that’s the last person with blame to be held accountable, David Canter. As an agent, it’s his job to get his clients (and himself) paid. Make no mistake, David Canter has a very keen interest in getting Xavien Howard more money. And in this instance, David Canter and his client value money more than they value staying with the Miami Dolphins. That isn’t meant to be insulting; NFL players have a very short shelf life…but if we’re going to call a spade a spade, that works both ways.
How Will This All End?
I’m not Nostradamus (heck, I can’t even spell that without help), but things have gone off the rails here. Can the metaphorical ship be righted? Yes, and it’s been made clear that Miami still hopes something can be worked out.
Here are a few points to consider:
And that last point is really important. I haven’t felt as comfortable watching a Dolphins CB play since Patrick Surtain and Sam Madison roamed the secondary. I was giddy every time opposing QBs threw at him, because I knew there was a pretty good chance Howard was going to come away with the ball.
But as Howard pointed out very late in his statement, the NFL is a business, and if Howard gets severely injured or his production drops off a cliff, the Dolphins won’t keep him in 2022 under his current contract. And in the end, the Miami Dolphins will keep playing and keep striving for a championship, with or without him. I certainly hope it’s with him…but I don’t think it will be.
By: Hussam Patel
As Training camp begins and the Dolphins new offense gets its gear churning Miami Dolphins RB is getting ready for his 3rd season with the team, certainly could be his most important season.
Presumptively, Gaskin is coming in as the lead running back for the Dolphins. The Dolphins have shown their unwavering faith in Gaskin by passing on running back talents such as Najee Harris and Travis Etienne in the draft.
Gaskin understood what General Manager Chris Grier and Head Coach Brian Flores were hinting at. In yesterday's presser he mentioned he missed a couple of games due to injuries and COVID-19 protocol and “has worked on trying to be more healthy and more available”
Last year Gaskin put up 584 yards on 142 carries in 10 games, It’s more impressive as he does it behind what ESPN calls the 30th ranked offensive line last year with 7.2 yards per game from scrimmage which ranks among top 10 of all RB’s.
It’s no question Myles Gaskin can still be a productive running back with what he’s given and if the offensive line, which consists of three second year players, a rookie and a free agent pickup, perform better than last year Gaskin should produce more.
“And of all the running backs in the NFL to take 60+ snaps in pass protection (there were 16 of them), none posted a better pass block efficiency rate than Gaskin — who is credited with just 2 hurries in those 71 snaps by Pro Football Focus. Gaskin wasn’t just good ‘for the Dolphins’ in this area, he was one of the best pass protecting backs in all of football last year.
Gaskin carried Pro Football Focus’ 12-best receiving grade among all running backs in football — but it is the production that really stands out in this capacity. Remember; Gaskin played in 10 games last season. And yet he finished:
If you want to take a look at Gaskins production and question what he’s able to do, his college statistics show with a decent OL and offensive play he is able to be a “RB1”
Myles Gaskin has heard and noted down what this organization has done, it is time for him to show the Dolphins and the NFL what they have been sleeping on.
By: Jason Sarney
As head coach of the Miami Dolphins Brian Flores said, through a spotty internet live stream on Twitter Tuesday morning, “It’s like the first day back at school.” Of course, he is talking about check-in day for 2021's training camp in a brand-new facility with brand new X-pectations.
Speaking of X, elite cornerback Xavien Howard, was in fact in the building this morning and was carrying cleats. Yet, not necessarily looking as happy as most millionaires entering work on a Tuesday morning. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, it was probably before any dose of caffeine.
With rumors swirling of trades and or holdouts it was stated by representation that Howard would not miss training camp, so at least that camp is holding their word.
Transition to holding, which is something Howard rarely does, it seems general manager Chris Grier is holding his star cornerback like a pair of top two Aces in a hand of Texas Hold'em. I know what you're thinking, and no this is not a reference to the Dallas Cowboys.
Grier has shown a steady hand through his tenure as the lone wolf in charge of the Miami front office, unlike prior seasons in the past where there were other drivers steering the ship. While not perfect and completely fallible like any other general manager, he has at least shown patterns and tendencies. However, like any good card sharp, he adjusts to the game, the market, and the competition masterfully.
Brian Flores seemed genuinely pleased that Howard arrived. "We're excited to have him, "I'm excited to have him." I don't care what any may say, Brian Flores would very much prefer Howard in his defensive backfield. Whatever happens in the next few weeks contractually is still anybody's guess, but what my guess is would be the following:
Xavien Howard will dress Week 1 against the New England Patriots for the Miami Dolphins.
There will be more training camp coverage to come on PhinManiacs.com as we gear up for the 2021 season, which is something we all have been sorely craving.
Let us wait no more….it is here.
And so is Xavien Howard.
By: Tanner Elliott
The Miami Dolphins selected Jaelan Phillips with the 18th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Most Dolphin fans were ecstatic with the pick, as he not only played his final college season at the University of Miami, but also was the top edge rusher in the draft. The reason Phillips fell to the 18th pick was due to his injury history, which we will cover. In this article, we take a deep dive into getting to know Jaelan Phillips. For an excellent video on his journey from high school prospect to his senior season at The University of Miami, check out football Youtuber FlemLo Raps who did a video on Jaelan Phillips.
Coming out of high school, Phillips was the man. He not only the top edge rushing prospect, but also the top prospect overall in the country in the 2017 recruiting class. Phillips had a 247 Sports Composite grade of .9989 out of 1 and was obviously a five-star recruit. Being the caliber of player he is, Phillips could go anywhere he wanted for college. Ultimately, he chose to go to UCLA, as he is from Redlands, CA and wanted to be close to home.
As a freshman in college, Phillips played in seven games and had 21 tackles and 3.5 sacks. Unfortunately for Phillips, this is where he started to get a ton of injuries. During his freshman season he suffered three injuries, a right ankle sprain, left ankle injury, and a concussion. This was unfortunate, as he was just getting started in his promising college career.
His sophomore year at UCLA was just like the first; he flashed potential, yet could not stay healthy as he only played in four games. During the four-game stretch, he had 20 tackles but just one sack. In retrospect, this is still impressive, as Phillips was hit by a car when he was on his moped during the offseason, suffering wrist injuries and his second concussion within a year. Obviously having two concussions in two years isn’t good, but Phillips also suffered three other injuries during this time. During the season, the injury bug kept biting Phillips as he suffered his third concussion. A UCLA policy states that when an athlete has three concussions, they’re forced to retire. This was awful news to Phillips, as he was now forced to medically retire.
After Phillips was forced to retire, he went to Los Angeles Community College to study music production. Music was Phillips’s second love after football, and he’s a very impressive musician. He plays all sorts of instruments (piano, trumpet, and guitar), and has said that if he wasn't playing football he would have worked in music. During this time, Phillips also worked at his dad’s law firm until he found himself at IHeartRadio with an internship.
Phillips transferred to The University of Miami after pondering whether or not to return to college football. The reason why Phillips decided to attend the U over a plethora of other colleges was their music program. Phillips sat out the 2019 college football season due to transfer rules but during this time he started to bulk up and regain his muscle. The 2020 season allowed Phillips to shine as Miami’s top pass rusher, as Gregory Rousseau opted out due to the Pandemic. During this season, Phillips showed everyone what he was capable of. He had 45 total tackles, 15.5 tackles for a loss, and 8 sacks; all career highs. Not only did Phillips have a fantastic year, but he played in 10 games (a career high) and did not have one injury.
Phillips faced plenty of adversity through his football career, but always overcame it. From being the top recruit in the nation, then being forced to medically retire, to being a huge part of the U’s defense and being the 18th pick in the NFL Draft. Now that Phillips has all the confidence in the world, expect him to light it up with the Dolphins.
By Hussam Patel and Chip Turner
Jevon Holland is an excellent and versatile safety who reads and reacts quickly, is fluid in transition, and displays outstanding ball-tracking. He’s a solid tackler, although he’s more likely to have issues with more physical receivers and backs in the NFL, unless he can add weight to his frame without losing quickness. Holland’s best trait might be his versatility; his cover skills are good enough for him to be used interchangeably at free safety and slot corner.
This is a huge plus in today’s NFL, where dime, quarter and even dollar defenses are being used more frequently. Holland even returned punts for Oregon.
This aside, Holland will also have to get a little bigger and stronger to handle NFL starting WR. I originally was unsure about his athleticism, but his Pro Day answered many of those doubts. He’s tremendously aggressive when he reads a play accurately, and his instincts and ball skills make him appear even faster and quicker than he is. His aggressiveness didn’t factor negatively in college, but it might in the NFL if he overpursues. Holland might eventually end up being primarily a slot corner in the NFL, but he’ll play a variety of roles as defenses adapt to more versatile offenses.
Post Draft Report:
A quote from ESPN’s Louis Riddick sums it up:
"Very smooth, very skilled. Good hips. Very fluid closing ability. The kind of guy you would assume Brian Flores will find multiple ways to deploy him. You can send him on the blitz. You can match him up against tight ends. You can match him against running backs. There are so many different things you can do with a player like this. And when a team like the Dolphins that emphasizes good fundamentals in the second this is a good solid pick. You can see Brian Flores advocating for a guy like this."
By: Hussam Patel
It only took 2 years for the Dolphins to draft the player that Minkah Fitzpatrick was supposed to be. Jevon Holland might be the guy that fits in Brian Flores’s mosaic in terms of his play style.
I detailed it in my pre-draft scouting report, and was impressed by his tape. Initially I questioned why the Dolphins took Holland when Trevon Moehrig, the #1 safety on my board, wasn’t selected first, as according to reports Miami wanted a center field safety.
Then, I took a look at what Miami actually needed at the safety position schematically, and came away with this thread on Holland:
With the Dolphins secondary already being great at ball skills and coverage, Holland is an added bonus. What Holland really does well is contribute to run support and play downhill in the box at stopping the run. He can be the Patrick Chung of this defense.
Let's take a look at Holland’s Measurables:
At first glance, he looks eerily similar to Minkah Fitzpatrick.
From Mario Cristobal on Jevon Holland: “He is a large ballhawk. He is a guy that played the nickel position. A safety body type that could jump out there and play corner, play man-to-man coverage, run the alley as a safety, drop back as a punt returner and create explosive plays. Instinctive, explosive, tough, physical, a student of the game."
“Teams that we played against, as we watched film around the country, I didn’t see anyone better at his position than him. I expect him to go extremely high and do extremely well right away," said Cristobal.
In 2018, Holland primarily played at Safety and perPFF's Ryan Smith and put up a 59.9 coverage grade with 26 completions on 43 targets, while only giving up 325 yards, two touchdowns and hauling down five interceptions.
Furthermore in 2019, when Holland played most of his snaps at slot corner, he notched a 68.5 coverage rating while allowing 45 completions on 72 targets for 487 yards, two touchdowns and four picks.
Head coach Brian Flores said after day two of the draft that Holland has leadership qualities and that he “has the ability to communicate and quarterback a defense because he’s smart.”
Holland is a perfect fit for the Dolphins defense and head coach Brian Flores, as he is one of the most versatile defensive backs in this draft class; he has the toughness and athleticism to play the nickel or free safety, as well as the speed and coverage skills to play as a slot corner.
Certainly he will help out in the passing game, and he offers a much more natural presence in the run game - he's over 200 pounds and was in run fits for almost 500 snaps near the line of scrimmage and as a box safety.
He’s got plenty of tape (Oregon & Stanford, 2019) that showcases he’s comfortable navigating traffic in the box and sniffing out the ball carrier. He had 4.5 sacks in his electric freshman season, and tallied 5 picks. Holland looks to be the shiny penny in Miami’s secondary.
By: Chip Turner
Say what you will about the Miami Dolphins Front Office over the past couple years; you certainly aren’t going to be able to convince anyone that they’re not at least TRYING to build a top-flight offensive line. The fourth player selected in two years was taken in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft; the Dolphins traded up to pick Liam Eichenberg.
Unlike most of their 2020 O-Line picks, Eichenberg is close to a finished product. In other words, while his projected upside might not be as high as that of 2020 pick Austin Jackson, he’s more NFL-ready in his rookie year than Jackson was.
What’s interesting about Eichenberg is that while he’s very fundamentally sound, some scouts were unsure how well he’d do in the NFL because of his perceived lack of athleticism. At his Pro Day, he changed that perception quite drastically.
The 6’6” 305-pound Eichenberg crushed his Pro Day; the only things that kept him from elite prospect status were his vertical, broad jump and body weight. While those measurables are understandably included in the measurement of pure athleticism, I don’t think many would argue the benefits of vertical leaping and broad jump for an offensive tackle. He posted a top five 20-yard shuttle and top five 3-cone drill of all the tackles in the past five years, and had the highest number of reps, by far, with 33. (Interestingly, the player with the second most in the past 5 years was teammate and 2020 draft pick Austin Jackson, with 27.)
In short, Eichenberg is quick, fast, and very strong. At Notre Dame, he was a three-year starter, and allowed one sack, total, in his time there. Additionally, he only allowed one hit on the QB in all of 2020. Neither of those two stats are typos. On top of all of that, he’s considered a very good run blocker in a zone scheme.
As training camp nears, the player who some dubbed “Mr. Incredible” because of his resemblance to the Pixar hero will get his chance to solidify a position as a starter on the very young Dolphins offensive line. If he brings the same sort of stability, consistent play, and yes, athleticism to the team that he did at Notre Dame, it’s a moniker that just might stick.
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