Brady won’t have to face Howard

Knee in­jury keeps Dol­phins star CB out against Patriots

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - Sports - By Omar Kelly South Florida Sun Sen­tinel On Twit­ter @omarkelly

DAVIE Mi­ami Dol­phins stand­out cor­ner­back Xavien Howard will miss his first game since 2016 be­cause of a knee in­jury that flared up this week.

Howard didn’t prac­tice all week and has been ruled out for Sun­day’s game against the New Eng­land Patriots.

“He has to feel good with his move­ment skills,” coach Adam Gase said. “We’ll give it an­other run next week and go from there.”

The ab­sence of Howard, who leads the NFL with seven in­ter­cep­tions, will likely force the Dol­phins to change how they play Patriots quar­ter­back Tom Brady, as they pre­vi­ously rolled a lot of their cov­er­age away from Howard, who typ­i­cally shad­owed the op­po­si­tion’s best re­ceiver.

Howard will ei­ther be re­placed by Torry McTyer or Cor­nell Arm­strong in the nickel pack­age be­cause Minkah Fitzpatrick and Bobby McCain are ex­pected to start on the bound­ary, with one or both play­ers work­ing in­side at the nickel spot.

It is also pos­si­ble that safety Walt Aikens might be used to help de­fend Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski be­cause of his size.

“We’re a tight-knit fam­ily. When­ever we have any type of ad­ver­sity, it brings us closer to­gether,” said McTyer, who started two games this sea­son when McCain was side­lined by a knee in­jury. “No mat­ter who goes down or steps up, we’re a tight-knit fam­ily.”

McTyer strug­gled ear­lier this sea­son, forc­ing the Dol­phins to move Fitzpatrick from safety to cor­ner­back.

“He’s had some ups and downs [and that] con­trib­utes to him grow­ing and de­vel­op­ing and see­ing things more,” de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Matt Burke said of McTyer, who has 18 tack­les and one pass de­flec­tion in 11 games this sea­son. “I can’t speak to [the Patriots’] tar­get plan or their plan of at­tack. We’re go­ing to have dif­fer­ent guys out there at dif­fer­ent spots and try to help them all out.”

Arm­strong, the Dol­phins’ 2018 sixth-round pick, suf­fered a knee in­jury last week but par­tic­i­pated in the past two prac­tices with­out lim­i­ta­tions and is ex­pected to play.

“He can run. That’s why we brought him in in the first place. That’s one of his defin­ing traits. He’s got speed. One thing that’s been cool with Cor­nell is that it’s not too big for him,” Burke said. “Com­ing from where he came from and stuff, you just have a con­cern that things could get too big for him and it hasn’t been.”

The Dol­phins could also call on rookie cor­ner­back Dee De­laney, a for­mer Univer­sity of Mi­ami prod­uct, who was claimed off waivers this week.

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