Xavien Howard and Byron Jones Listed Again in Latest Top 10 Cornerback Rankings

Byron Jones Cowboys

When the 2020 NFL season hopefully gets underway in September, the Miami Dolphins should have a pair of starting cornerbacks in Xavien Howard and Byron Jones who rank among the elite in the league.

Patrik Walker of CBS Sports listed his top 10 NFL cornerbacks and ranked Howard eighth on the list, with Jones earning the sixth spot in the poll.

Howard battled through an injury-plagued 2019 season, but his strong 2018 performance resulted in his being selected for a spot in the Pro Bowl.

“Howard is key to what Brian Flores is building in Miami,” Walker wrote.

“The 26-year-old and former second-round pick is one of the best in the league at what he does, and it’s not up for debate. Howard is only a season removed from having seven (!!) interceptions, which followed up a previously career-best four in 2017, and quarterbacks only completed 52.4 percent of their passes in 2018 when they targeted him. Howard saw his INT tally dwindle to only one in 2019, yes, but that was due to a knee injury that landed him on injured reserve and not because he’s a flash in the pan. He’s a cornerstone player any team would be lucky to have, but one the Dolphins plan on keeping for a long time.”

Jones arrived via free agency this past March after spending his first five seasons with the Dallas Cowboys. Like Howard, Jones is looking to get back to his 2018 form that also resulted in a trip to the Pro Bowl.

“Jones is the highest-paid defensive back in NFL history, but some can’t figure out why that is,” Walker wrote.

“Allow me to help by pointing out, as stated previously in this list, while interceptions are celebrated — for good reason — when an elite corner lacks them, it’s time to do some digging to find out why. The Dolphins know the reason, and that’s why they had no problem giving him a historic contract, and the Dallas Cowboys know why as well — although their purse strings were too tight to put them in his free agency conversation after having spent a first-round pick on him five seasons ago. The bottom line is Jones was coached to cover and not take away the ball, but his time at UConn proved he can do both.

“He routinely shuts down half of the field and is rarely thrown at, as evidenced by permitting just 6.2 yards (!!) per target in 2019, making the tandem of Jones and Howard a lethal one in Miami.”

Given the money that Howard and Jones are being paid by the Dolphins, it seems natural that both players would earn such lofty rankings.

Last year, Howard signed a five-year extension with the Dolphins worth an estimated $76.5 million, while Jones’ five-year deal is even more lucrative at $82.5 million.

Of course, that investment has become less of a concern because of the coronavirus pandemic that’s already affected offseason workouts. Establishing the chemistry between Howard and Jones is important before the Sept. 13 opener, with first-round pick Noah Igbinoghene also set to challenge the tandem.

The good news for Dolphins fans is that the rebuilding of the team could take a major step forward in the year ahead, with Howard and Jones possibly having key roles in that push.