In what has been a big bounce-back year, Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard currently leads the NFL in interceptions. Including his pick of New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold this past Sunday, Howard has a total of seven interceptions so far this season.
Howard has interceptions against seven different quarterbacks this season, showing that he is an equal opportunity turnover machine, and did not feast against one signal-caller having a bad day. His victims so far have been: Gardner Minshew (Jaguars), Russell Wilson (Seahawks), Jimmy Garoppolo (49ers), Joe Flacco (Jets), Justin Herbert (Chargers), Drew Lock (Broncos) and Darnold (Jets).
NFL interception leader Howard is having a career year
Although it feels like Howard has been in the league for quite some time, he is only 27 years old and in his fifth pro season.
The Dolphins selected him out of Baylor in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Two years ago, he set a career-high with seven interceptions, which he is certainly on pace to break in 2020 with five more games left to play in Miami’s season.
After his breakout season in 2018, Howard received a big pay day from the team. Howard received a five-year contract extension and an additional $75 million on top of his rookie deal, including $46 million guaranteed.
Unfortunately for Howard and for the Dolphins, he was not on the field for very long in 2019, as the team placed him on season-ending injured reserve in late-October with a knee injury. Because it was widely assumed that the Dolphins were trying to best position themselves for a quarterback in that draft instead of winning games, Howard’s assignment to IR without any clear long-term injury was a sign that they wanted to protect him for the future.
It will be interesting to see how the Dolphins' top flight corner fares during the rest of this season, as there are a couple of formidable wide receiver matchups he will be involved in, and a few more vulnerable QBs against which he can rack up more interceptions.
Miami plays the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 14, and Howard might have the unenviable task of trying to stay in front of speed demon Tyreek Hill. Miami also plays the Buffalo Bills to end the regular season, in a game that may very well decide who wins the AFC East. Howard will likely be responsible for slowing down Bills receiver Stefon Diggs, who torched Miami in their first matchup in September.
On the other hand, Howard and the Dolphins will face the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 13, who recently had to replace injured starting QB Joe Burrow with career backup Brandon Allen. In Week 15, Howard will see New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton, who has three multi-interception games this season.