There are two ways to look at Dolphins ‘ability to use Xavien Howard’s corner to track Buffalo Stefan Diggs’ broadband in Sunday’s AFC East match.
The eye-catching, eye-catching headline point of view is that it creates a titanic duel between Howard, All Pro and Diggs, another All Pro, a duel that can be as good as the game itself.
“I want to fight the best because I consider myself the best,” Howard said. “I like the one-on-one duel. This is what I do.
Howard vs. Diggs is the match we saw last season.
This is not necessarily a decisive duel. Buffalo beat Dolphins twice last season and Howard, arguably the league’s best defender, followed Diggs each time.
However, it is an incredibly s*xy duel. These are the top two games where you play one-on-one, one-on-one, face to face. And according to Howard, there is no barking.
“Nobody talks when we play,” said Howard, who leads the NFL with 27 steals in the last five seasons, “because I’m not telling anyone.”
There is also a flip side to the duel story where Nik Needham, arguably the original Dolphs defender facing Howard, can expect a lot of action.
Needham said he was ready.
“The coach always said, ‘Just be ready, the quarterback is sure to try you sometimes,” Needham said. “And you just have to be ready for these plays.”
Luckily for Needham and Dolphins, the Bill’s don’t have as good receivers as Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. So Dolphins can be comfortable with Needham on Bill’s wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie (four receptions, 56 yards, one touchdown) or Gabe Davis (four receptions, 88 yards, one touchdown).
Dolphins also have other corners like Keion Crossen and Kader Kohou, so not all of them will be on Needham. It’s a tough challenge to have a target like that on your back opposite Howard. You know the quarterback wants to go your way. It brings the game down to the basics.
“It’s a game between men,” Crossen said. “Simple Soccer”.
The same is true of Howard-Diggs.
Buffalo won’t hesitate to go to Diggs as he is their best audience and one of the best players. Teams don’t usually lose their strength. It is Howard who will take their strength.
Howard watched the wide-angle New England DeVante Parker receiver in the opener, holding it at one party for nine yards on two cells.
Diggs is in a different class, however.
Diggs (20 receptions, 274 yards, four touchdowns) to borrow the phrase Dolphins quarterback, which TuaTagovailoa used to describe Bill’s quarterback, Josh Allen, is a beast.
And Allen often throws the ball towards him.
Diggs has over twice as many receptions (20 to 8) and goals (24 to 11) than his two wide-ranging teammates, McKenzie and Davis, combined.
One of the best NFL receivers, Diggs is second in the league behind Hill (25 receptions, 284 yards, two touchdowns).
In last year’s Dolphins-Bills game at Buffalo on Halloween, a 26-11 Bills win, a seventh consecutive victory over Dolphins, Diggs completed five 40-yard receptions and a touchdown. He’s been targeted seven times. A touchdown came after a pass from 19 yards in the third quarter, giving Bills a 17-3 lead.
In last year’s first game between Dolphins and Bills, a 35-0 victory for Buffalo, Diggs completed four 60-yard parties with a 5-yard touchdown. He’s been targeted eight times.
Lots of things make Diggs hard to defend, but a few stand out.
“I would say that his running along the route, his hands, [and] especially a setter holding the ball that long, extending the game, makes it hard work, “said Howard.
Diggs can stretch the ball.
Likewise, Howard, two-time All Pro, three-time Pro Bowler and two-time NFL steal leader.
Howard followed audiences like AJ Brown from Philadelphia (when he was in Tennessee), DeAndre Hopkins from Arizona (when he was in Houston), and Antonio Brown from Tampa Bay.
She loves challenges.
“I accept the duel,” Howard said, “and I’m ready for it.”
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