FRANKFURT, Germany — The Miami Dolphins already had Jalen Ramsey, their esteemed offseason acquisition they brought in to play cornerback opposite fellow multi-time Pro Bowl pick Xavien Howard, debut with the team last Sunday against the New England Patriots.
Only one problem: Howard wasn’t active to make the pairing complete, as Ramsey had his first start with the Dolphins three months after meniscus surgery on his left knee.
Now, Howard could be bound to make his return from a two-game absence due to a groin injury, saying Wednesday he’d be ready for Sunday’s international series showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs in Frankfurt, Germany. He was officially listed as questionable on the Friday injury report.
“If we can get that done, that would be good,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said Thursday. “That’s what we’ve been shooting for. We knew it was going to take a while with Jalen’s injury, but through Jalen’s fast recovery and beating the odds, it’s happening earlier.”
Said McDaniel on Wednesday, playing off Howard’s nickname of X: “Well, you could say he would be a factor, an X-factor.”
On Howard’s end, he said since early in the week, this game against the Chiefs and quarterback Patrick Mahomes would mark his return after being held out of a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles and last Sunday’s win over the Patriots.
“I feel great right now, ready to play this weekend,” Howard said Wednesday. “Dealt with a little issue with the groin, but the team took care of me, so I’m ready to play now.”
And Ramsey wants to have his fellow top cornerback with him when they face the Chiefs and their third-ranked passing offense.
“It’d be nice,” Ramsey said Friday. “It’d be real nice, and I think it’ll give the defense a lot of confidence and a little bit of a new dynamic. But we got to play together.”
This is a pairing long in the making, something Howard and Ramsey, who have 10 Pro Bowls combined, talked about before they even became teammates when Ramsey was traded to Miami from the Los Angeles Rams in the offseason.
“We always speak about it, man,” Howard said. “Since he got here, before he was here and he wanted to come here, we reached out, we were talking and stuff like that. Now he’s here, now we’re able to play together this week. So I’m excited about everything.”
And Howard has been eager to play over his two-game absence.
“I wouldn’t say he enjoyed watching the last game,” McDaniel said, “but he enjoyed doing what was right for the team. And I know he enjoys playing much more than watching.”
Fangio has also mentioned he wants to eventually move Ramsey around on the defense, possibly beginning with Sunday’s matchup against the Chiefs. The six-time Pro Bowl, three-time All-Pro cornerback could end up some on Kansas City star tight end Travis Kelce, either by Kelce lining up in various spots or some limited movement in Ramsey’s alignment.
The idea of moving around on the defense instead of his usual post on the boundary on the defense’s right side appeared to be news to Ramsey when he spoke Friday.
“Vic didn’t say that,” he replied to a question about Fangio’s comment. “Vic did not say that to y’all. He said that to y’all?”
“We’ll see. I just play whatever Vic calls. It’s my second week, so I’m still getting adjusted to how Vic does things.”
The Dolphins defense, which has been coming along from a rough start to the season, could really reach a new echelon when Ramsey and Howard are together in the secondary, along with safety Jevon Holland, who sat out last week against the Patriots in concussion protocol but is ready for Sunday against Kansas City.
“We can do a lot more,” Holland said. “(Ramsey) adds a huge veteran aspect to the defense for me, myself, for other younger guys that want to learn. X as well, having him back. Having two veterans back playing with us is huge. It really helps us out, and it just makes the game a lot more fun, definitely.”
Added defensive tackle Christian Wilkins: “It’ll definitely be great when all the pieces to the puzzle are together. We all have a role. We’re all a piece of the puzzle. So when we’re at full strength, I think we have a chance to be pretty good. Looking forward to seeing what we continue to do this year.”