Don’t forget contributions of Xavien Howard and Terron Armstead in Dolphins’ success – The Denver Post


Outsiders will point to the obvious when giving the reasons for the Dolphins’ 7-3 start and first-place position in the AFC East — quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, wide receiver Tyreek Hill and coach Mike McDaniel.

Insiders, however, will point to two other key contributors — left tackle Terron Armstead and cornerback Xavien Howard.

Put either player on an opposing team’s top player, sit back, and watch the show.

Think about the number of big-time players that didn’t do big-time damage against the Dolphins this season: Baltimore linebacker Justin Houston (three tackles, one sack), Buffalo receiver Stefon Diggs (seven receptions, 74 yards), Buffalo edge rusher Von Miller (no tackles, no sacks), Pittsburgh linebacker Alex Highsmith (one tackle, no sacks), Detroit edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson (one tackle, no sacks), Cleveland receiver Amari Cooper (three receptions, 32 yards) and Cleveland edge rusher Myles Garrett (two tackles, no sacks).

Howard, the All Pro, and Armstead, the three-time Pro Bowl selection, have been at their best against the best.

Looking at the Dolphins’ remaining seven games, four of which are on the road, Armstead and Howard will need to duplicate their lockdown one-on-one performances a few more times. But that probably won’t be an issue.

Pro Football Focus lists Armstead No. 14 among offensive tackles, while Howard is listed at No. 90.

But both can shut down, or limit, top-notch opponents.

“Players that are able to do that, it isn’t necessarily their flat-out talent, even though for confidence reasons, they love to think that it’s just their talent,” McDaniel said.

“But both competitors have this thing called competitive greatness that I see.”

McDaniel said it brings to mind the quote by legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden that says, “Perform at your best when your best is required. Your best is required every day.”

McDaniel acknowledges that Howard, who has battled groin injuries, and Armstead, who has been dealing with toe, calf and Achilles injuries, are both exceptionally talented.

But he said it’s their competitive nature that allows them to control some of the league’s best players.

“There are certain people when the adrenaline is high, when the moment is large, there are certain people that get nervous and worry about failure,” McDaniel said. “Then there are certain people that only see the rewards reaped from success. Those types of people, when you’re around, you can feel and you rely on those people, and you want as many of those people in the building as possible.

“I think Terron and ‘X’ are both prime examples of that.”

The system hasn’t been perfect. Howard has struggled at times. Minnesota wide receiver Justin Jefferson totaled six receptions for 107 yards in the Vikings’ 24-16 victory. But almost half of that came on a 47-yard reception.

And don’t discount the injury situations involving Howard and Armstead.

Both have missed games that ended in losses.

Howard missed the fourth quarter against Cincinnati when the Bengals scored 13 points, doing most of the damage through the air, on their way to a 27-15 victory. He missed the entire New York Jets loss (40-17) the following week.

Armstead left the Jets game in the first quarter. He stayed overnight in New York to see a specialist. He then missed the entire Minnesota loss the following week when the Dolphins gave up six sacks and 13 quarterback hits.

Make no mistake, Armstead and Howard are key players.

When teams win seven of their first 10 games, such as the Dolphins, there are usually many reasons for their success.

At the top of the food chain for the Dolphins are Tagovailoa, Hill and McDaniel. Elsewhere on the list is quality depth, coaching and the front office.

But don’t forget to include Howard and Armstead.

They do things one-on-one that can’t be duplicated. They make everyone’s assignments easier.

Put Howard on a receiver and the defense can do anything you want around him. Blitz. Play an eight-man front. Whatever. For example, Against Cincinnati, the Dolphins put Howard on No. 2 receiver Tee Higgins and double-teamed No. 1 wideout Ja’Marr Chase in an effort to get the Bengals to throw at Howard.

It’s the same deal with Armstead. Put him on a pass rusher and forget about it. You can slide coverage to someone else, such as Cleveland’s Jadeveon Clowney, or chip him, or even double-team him, if necessary.

Neither Howard now Armstead is the best in the league at what they do, but both are among the best, and for the Dolphins, both are invaluable.



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