McDaniel thinks Dolphins ready to accept Howard's challenge and score points

MIAMI GARDENS — Mike McDaniel believes his team is ready to step up to the challenge.

That challenge coming from within his own locker room and All-Pro cornerback Xavien Howard. Following Sunday’s 24-16 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at Hard Rock Stadium, Howard, one of the team’s seven captains, put the onus on every Dolphins player to help stop the team’s three-game losing streak.

For Howard, it all starts with playing complementary football and making big plays in all three phases, regardless of the team’s worsening injury situation.

“Like I said, it doesn’t matter who’s at quarterback – we still have to score touchdowns, make plays, special teams – everything. I challenge everybody, we’ve got to make plays,” Howard said postgame.

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That message reverberated throughout the Baptist Health Training Complex on Monday as the team went through its daily day-after-game meetings. McDaniel, who has spoken multiple times on how instrumental the team’s captains have been over the course of the year, was appreciative of Howard’s comments. He thinks the rest of the team has followed suit.

“I know where [Howard’s] footing is with regard to the team and he is stating what everyone is saying, which we need to put together a complete football game to get the results we want,” McDaniel said during Monday’s press conference. “Speaking to the captains today, there’s without a shadow of a doubt complete confidence in our ability to do what it takes to win on both sides of the ball.”

The Dolphins defense played well against the Vikings and quarterback Kirk Cousins for the most part but gave up big plays down the stretch Sunday in Miami Gardens.
The Dolphins defense played well against the Vikings and quarterback Kirk Cousins for the most part but gave up big plays down the stretch Sunday in Miami Gardens.

Howard’s main frustration Sunday seemed to stem from the offense’s struggles to put points on the board, especially considering that the defense managed to contain a pretty explosive Vikings offense to 11 first downs and 234 yards of total offense - and forced 10 punts.

However, as well as the defense played, it also lacked its share of splash plays that typically go a long way in deciding the outcome of the game. Where the Vikings defense were able to force three turnovers, two coming in the fourth quarter, Miami came away empty handed.

The Dolphins haven’t managed to secure a turnover during the past three games, all losses. The last time it did came against Buffalo, the biggest win of the year so far for Miami.

So as Howard said, it’s on everybody.

“Me and Jevon [Holland] were literally talking about this yesterday,” safety Brandon Jones said of the lack of turnovers. “I think we’ve been doing a good job of attacking the ball, I just think that there’s only so many opportunities, whether there’s one, three opportunities, we just have to make those.

“Anytime the ball’s in the air and we have the opportunity we have to go for the ball and make it and I think as a defense we could for sure stress more of just getting the ball out.”

Return of Tua Tagovailoa should help Dolphins

One thing that should help the Dolphins is the return of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to the starting lineup.  McDaniel announced Monday that Tagovailoa should prepare for the week as the starter after he’s missed the last two games following the concussion he suffered against Cincinnati.

Teammates aren’t just excited to have Tagovailoa back for his play but also the intangibles he’ll be able to bring back onto the field.

“Tua is Tua, he’s our leader,” offensive lineman Robert Hunt said. “He’s the guy that’s been running the show, man, and we’ll be excited to get him back.”

Regardless of who’s running the offense though, whether it be Tagovailoa, Teddy Bridgewater or Skylar Thompson, the Dolphins are ready to answer Howard and the rest of the captains’ call. Step up and stop the skid.

“It’s hard to win in this league, we know the margin of error is very slim,” Hunt said. “We know what we’re capable of, we know we have a good team. I think the captains have done a great job of reiterating that and I think it’s been good. I think they’ve been going about it the right way.”

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Mike McDaniel says Miami Dolphins ready for challenge from Xavien Howard