Dolphins' Noah Igbinoghene needs more big plays and fast if he wants to stick around | Schad

MIAMI GARDENS — Noah Igbinoghene is running out of time and he must know it.

Igbinoghene intercepted Teddy Bridgewater in Tuesday's practice and he ran for what may have been a long touchdown and he fired the ball into a netting in the end zone.

"Just be kind of cutthroat with the game of football," Mike McDaniel said of a message to Igbinoghene, the Dolphins' cornerback. "Trust all this training."

This was a good play. And Noah needs more good plays — and fast.

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McDaniel is Miami's head coach and Igbinoghene is Miami's third-year cornerback. McDaniel knows Igbinoghene is a supremely talented athlete.

And McDaniel and Igbinoghene are both also fully aware that the cornerback has not come anywhere close to living up to his status as a first-round draft pick.

In Saturday night's preseason victory at Tampa Bay, Igbinoghene was the player closest to the ball on a long touchdown pass allowed.

It was unclear if any of Igbinoghene's teammates, including safety Brandon Jones, could have done something a bit different to help out on the play.

Dolphins want less conservative Noah Igbinoghene

But Igbinoghene allowed the play to happen. And he was probably a bit too conservative in his reaction to the ball and what was happening in front of him.

"Play what you see," McDaniel told Igbinoghene about that play. "Let it loose. Don't be as conservative."

Igbinoghene is fast and tough and thoughtful and a generally nice young man. But he needs to see more and see it faster and make more plays on the ball.

It just hasn't been there since he joined the Dolphins. Igbinoghene needs to show improved instincts and ball awareness and better positioning.

For two years, it's been noted that Igbinoghene was a receiver converted to cornerback at Auburn. He was young. (He's still only 22.) He was still learning. He was raw.

"Understand that (history as a receiver) is a positive," McDaniel said.  "You know what it feels like to be a receiver. So then, all right, well, how do you play your technique? How does that invite X, Y or Z from the receiver when you're playing them? You know, it can be used as a strength as opposed to, 'Okay, well, I'm new to the position.' "

There can be no more excuses.

After Saturday's game, Igbinoghene was asked about the touchdown.

Asked about what happened, he said he'd have to "watch the film."

Asked about the coverage, he said "I don't think we should go into specifics."

Igbinoghene needs to start providing answers

Igbinoghene has been nothing but cordial and polite. But he needs more answers.

And it sounds like his coaches want him to be nastier. For sure, they want some tighter darn coverage.

Bucs receiver Jaelon Darden catches a touchdown pass with Dolphins cornerback Noah Igbinoghene in coverage during Saturday night's preseason game in Tampa.
Bucs receiver Jaelon Darden catches a touchdown pass with Dolphins cornerback Noah Igbinoghene in coverage during Saturday night's preseason game in Tampa.

Igbinoghene has had the opportunity to learn behind All-Pro Xavien Howard and Pro Bowler Byron Jones.

He's now being coached by an All-Pro Dolphin in Sam Madison, and an All-Pro Dolphin in Patrick Surtain.

What more could you want? What else could you possibly need to be set up for success as a professional cornerback?

Now Byron Jones is having a hard time getting back from an offseason lower leg surgery. While Miami is hopeful for the opener, there are no guarantees.

Igbinoghene was supposed to be the insurance. But there is no assurance he'll even have a spot on this roster.

Former undrafted rookie free agent Nik Needham is ahead of him. Trill Williams, who just went to injured reserve, may have been ahead of him. Keion Crossen, a core special teamer with some pro cornerback experience, has outplayed him.

And in the wake of an injury to Williams, Miami went out and signed veteran Mackensie Alexander. It seems there's a decent chance Alexander might play slot and Needham might move outside in the event Jones is unavailable for the opener.

Igbinoghene was drafted as insurance. It's not yet a trusted policy.

He's a hard worker. This offseason he trimmed body fat and weight.

Coaches say Igbinoghene has matured emotionally since his rookie season.

Igbinoghene knows higher standard required

What matters most is this — can you be counted on to cover the guy in front of you?

Igbinoghene hasn't done it well enough in open Dolphins practices. And he didn't do it well enough in two joint practices at Tampa last week, players too often beating him deep.

"I'll say my first practice wasn't probably up to the standard," Igbinoghene said. "Second practice a little bit better. Getting used to it. And the game, played the first two quarters. I'm just looking forward to what's next. So I can just focus on the present. The past is over. This game is over. We're focused on next week and get ready for this week's practices."

Earlier this offseason, Igbinoghene said Madison, Miami's defensive backs coach, suggested that he takes on receivers and "not really let them breathe."

Igbinoghene needs to accelerate his growth and demonstrate some cause for optimism before the regular season begins. That roster spot seems unguaranteed.

Joe Schad is a journalist at the Palm Beach Post part of the USA TODAY Florida Network. You can reach him at jschad@pbpost.comHelp support our journalism. Subscribe today.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Miami Dolphins cornerback Noah Igbinoghene has not met expectations