Noah Igbinoghene and Trill Williams began their NFL careers in reverse, despite playing in the same position.
Noah Igbinoghen has the pedigree of being a former first-round pick, and the unfortunate distinction of being disappointing in his first two NFL seasons so far.
As an unfulfilled player the Dolphins claimed a string of exemptions last spring, Trill Williams entered camp without any hype, or expectations. Yet the former Syracuse standout built the team into an unfinished rookie based on his strong practices.
Oddly enough, these young cornerbacks find themselves in the same exact place, facing similar adversity at this training camp.
While Byron Jones rehabilitates the ankle he had surgery on in the spring, and Xavian Howard paces himself during the early weeks of camp, Igbinoghi and Williams are baptized by fire as receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle are fired. The cornerbacks are responsible for covering. ,
Even though the pair have had their share of good plays, such as behind the end zone interception Williams pulled down while defending a pass to Waddle on Monday, most of their practice reps were spent catching the speedster with the goal. Don’t be embarrassed by Hill and Waddell.
So when those wins come courtesy of a deflection, an interception, or a pick-six play, like Williams delivered during the first practice at camp last week, there’s a great deal of pride. And it often comes with a cheer from the entire defense.
“Even a hand,” Williams said, referring to Monday’s interception. “It is worthwhile because practice translates to games. If I can now make these plays in front of coaches they will have the confidence to do the same plays to put me in the game.”
And if the pair can keep up with Hill, a six-time pro bowler, and Waddle, who set an NFL record for rookie receptions in one season, downfield they should be able to keep pace with anyone in the NFL.
“They’re one of the two top receivers in this league, so if you can be successful against them, consistently against them, it shows how you can do against the rest of the league,” said Igbinogene, who led a camp. Similar experience last year at this point.
While Howard held a hold-in in the first week of practice while his contract was adjusted in 2021, Igbinoghi dealt with the start and struggled so much that he was demoted to third-team defense.
Igbinoghi is doing a little better this time around and credits former dolphin legend Sam Madison, his new position coach and the pressure technique he learned from a changed diet to become a vegetarian.
He has also changed his mindset, focusing less on the negative, flushing his early struggles like most good cornerbacks have learned to brush off bad plays.
In the end, Igbinoghane said that he listened to criticism that accompanied his early struggles, and that it eroded his confidence.
But that is in the past. These days he is focusing on making the most of each opportunity.
“I look really impressive against them” [Hill and Waddle] So I can be effective against the rest of the receivers in this league,” said Igbinoghene, who has played three of 23 games in which he contributed 19 tackles, two pass deflections and two fumbles. “Those two on my team. It’s a blessing to have players and I can’t wait to see what they do, and what this team does as well.”
Williams, who has a unique mix of size and athleticism, appreciates the opportunity given to him to prove himself. This time last year, he was at the end of the depth chart, and usually took the field with the third team.
Consistent drills boosted Williams to the depth charts, and he hopes they will eventually earn him a contributing role this year.
“I’m really focused on now and the position I’m in right now and just coming to work every day. I honestly don’t worry about ‘X’ (Javian Howard) and Byron (Jones) I am concerned about myself and this team and I am getting better at my job because I have a role in this team,” said Williams, who played a regular season game last season. I want to come to work every day and do my job in the best possible way.”
Sam Madison has stressed on both corners that he needs to improve his physicality, using his size to become more aggressive as a bump and run cornerback.
They’re both working to master the pressing style that made Madison a four-time pro bowler, and a two-time first team All-Pro before becoming an NFL assistant.
The hope is that one or both will blossom into a player who can chime in when the dolphins are called into action.
Only time and continuous development will answer this.