Two days before the Miami Dolphins take on the Minnesota Vikings, the team still wasn’t ready to totally rule out Xavien Howard. The Dolphins are listing their No. 1 cornerback as “doubtful” for Sunday against the Vikings as he recovers from a left knee injury.
Howard didn’t participate in practice at all this week, but was out on the practice field Friday before the team departed for Minneapolis. Wearing workout clothes, Howard went through ladder drills during the 30 minutes of practice open for media viewing. The defensive back tested his lateral agility as he tries to keep his absence as brief as possible. If he returns Sunday, Howard will have only missed one game despite needing minor knee surgery last week, although it is unlikely at this point.
“We’ll just leave a little wiggle room just in case,” coach Adam Gase said at his news conference after practice Friday. “It’s all going to be about how you feel tomorrow and kind of progress from there.”
The procedure kept Howard out for Miami’s 34-33 win against the New England Patriots, and the Dolphins’ pass defense struggled. Tom Brady threw for a season-high 358 yards, completing 27 of 43 passes and connecting for three touchdowns. Howard is tied for the league lead with seven interceptions to go along with 12 passes defended. The 25-year-old also has 35 total tackles, one tackle for a loss and one fumble recovery.
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Howard hasn’t practiced since the initial injury, but Gase said it won’t prevent Howard from playing if he feels good enough.
“I’m not worried about that,” Gase said. “It’s all about how he feels athletically. Can he move the way he needs to move?”
Now Miami (7-6) will probably have to contain one of the league’s best receiving tandems without its most reliable contributor in the secondary. Wide receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs both rank in the top 20 in receiving yards, and quarterback Kirk Cousins leads the league in completions. Defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick will need to bounce back from perhaps the worst game of his rookie season, and Miami will need a steadier performance from the whole secondary to slow down Minnesota.
The Dolphins could also be without another key contributor in the secondary. Miami officially listed T.J. McDonald as questionable on its Friday injury report. The safety was limited in practice throughout the week. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill, wide receiver Danny Amendola and tackle Laremy Tunsil were also all limited throughout the week, but were not listed on the injury report. All three are good to go Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.