Miami Dolphins Agree to Extension with Xavien Howard

Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard
Photo Credit: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins have agreed to a contract extension with cornerback Xavien Howard, per his agent.

Contract terms

The deal will keep the disgruntled Howard in Miami for an additional five years and give Howard an additional $50+ million in new money. The deal also reportedly contains the most guaranteed money for a cornerback in NFL history.

A step in the right direction

The Dolphins have clearly gone into “all-in” mode this off-season. It started with a revamp of the coaching staff, spurred by new head coach Mike McDaniel.

McDaniel promises to bring a fresh, new offense to the team. One that should maximize the talents of third-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

From a personnel standpoint, the Dolphins “all-in” approach has seen the team add Terron Armstead, Connor Williams, Raheem Mostert, Chase Edmonds, Cedrick Wilson, and Trent Sherfield in free agency to help bolster a struggling offense and implement McDaniel’s system.

The off-season also brought former Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill to Miami in a blockbuster trade. It’s clear the Dolphins think their time is now.

In hindsight, all the moves on the offense were going to ring hollow if Howard wasn’t wrapped up long-term. The two sides had their dispute last off-season.

What it means

In exchange for Howard signing a one-year extension, the two sides agreed to come back to the table this off-season and once again attempt to get the young star manning the Dolphins defensive backfield for years to come.

Today, those efforts have come to fruition. This extension with Xavien Howard is the feather in the Miami Dolphins cap that is the 2022 NFL free agency period.

Now, the team – and fans – can fully turn their attention to the NFL Draft. Miami doesn’t have a pick in the first two rounds, but there should be plenty of excitement around the event nonetheless.

A new era has come to South Florida as the team is finally starting to keep their developed talent. Xavien Howard’s contract extension is a step in the right direction.

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Blast Beats: Top 10 Metal Albums of the Year

Metal Albums of the Year

It’s the middle of February, so let me be the absolute last to say Happy New Year and to bring you my top 10 metal albums of the year. This is what happens when you miss half a year in new music and have to catch up.

In general, 2021 was pretty terrible. But it was a fantastic year for music — particularly for metal. No matter what you listen to, there was something for you this year. Are you a thrash metal fan? Thrash royalty Exodus hit us with a powerful new album in 2021. Is old-school heavy metal more your jam? Iron Maiden dropped something that many folks considered one of the top metal albums of the year. Maybe you’re a fan of hardcore or deathcore? Well, then you’re going to love this list!

As “Larry” did with his top 10 albums of the year, I’ll give you a brief look at the albums just outside my top 5, with more in-depth thoughts on those who made it. So, without further adieu, let’s get this show on the road!

Chris Spooner’s Top 10 Metal Albums of the Year: 10-6

10.) Inferi – Vile Genesis

Musically, 2021 was a year of discovery. I discovered great bands I didn’t know existed and “discovered” genres I thought I didn’t enjoy. Inferi covered both bases with their album “Vile Genesis.” I’ve never been much for the tech-death genre, but the #10 album on my metal albums of the year list opened my eyes. It’s a perfect blend of technical prowess without being over-the-top with it.

9.) Rivers of Nihil – The Work

If one tech-death album is good, two is better! Unlike Inferi, I was familiar with Rivers of Nihil coming into my #9 metal album of the year, “The Work.” I’d checked out “Where Owls Know My Name” and really enjoyed it, despite my aversion to tech-death at the time. While “The Work” is very different, it is no less a masterpiece. This is a band that deserves much more attention than they get.

8.) Of Mice & Men – Echo

Oh, metalcore. It’s not my favorite metal genre — that would be thrash, as I’ve mentioned on the podcast before — but it’s a comfort genre for me. One of those genres where, if I see a band falls into it, I know I’m probably going to have a good time. That was the case with Of Mice & Men and their album, “Echo.” 

Before listening to “Echo,” I was unaware the songs had been part of three previous EPs, so I got to listen to the album with fresh ears and expectations. Thus it comes in as my #8 metal album of the year.

7.) Jinjer – Wallflowers

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Jinjer. I, like just about everyone else, was *blown away* the first time I heard “Pisces”. It was a revelation, and I immediately went to listen to as much of this band as I could. What I found was a band who, while all are *incredibly* talented, the result wasn’t always as good as the parts would suggest.

That’s not the case with “Wallflowers.” Instead, this album is Jinjer at their peak. The technical prowess is there in spades, but it comes together masterfully, unlike some of their previous releases. Every song shows off just how talented each member is while also fitting together as complete, incredible songs. Of course, the openness and vulnerability in the lyrics from Tatiana Shmayluk are the cherry on top. In just about any other year, “Wallflowers” would easily be a top 5 album. That’s how great 2021 was for metal.

6.) Spiritbox – Eternal Blue

I was late to the party on Spiritbox. Where most in the metal world got their first look from “Holy Roller,” they didn’t show up on my radar until “Circle With Me.” I had no idea what I was missing! “Circle With Me” hooked me, “Holy Roller” sent me into the stratosphere with my fandom. The crazy part? Neither wound up being my favorite track off “Eternal Blue.”

Between tracks like “Hurt You,” “Silk in the Strings,” and the tearjerker “Constance,” it’s impossible to pick a favorite on this album. The only thing keeping “Eternal Blue” out of my top 5 metal albums of the year was the song “We Live in a Strange World.” It was the lone misfire on an album full of some of the best songs I heard all year.

Miami Dolphins 2022 Mock Draft: All SEC Edition

The season has been a disaster for the Miami Dolphins, so why not look to the future with a 2022 mock draft?

Miami Dolphins 2022 Mock Draft

If you’re a Miami Dolphins fan, I’m sorry. This season has been the opposite of fun for many fans forced to watch the Dolphins flounder week after week. The struggles of the offensive line are more apparent than ever. Questions once again surround quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and whether or not he’s the future at the position. There are holes everywhere on the team. What’s a fan to do? Kick back and have some fun with a Miami Dolphins 2022 mock draft!

It’s November. The college football season is still in full-swing, and the NFL season has barely passed the halfway point. Mock drafts at this point in the season aren’t for accuracy. They’re to have some fun looking to the future, and to introduce fans to some of the prospects they’ll be hearing come next spring. With that in mind, we’re going to have some fun with this Miami Dolphins mock draft.

When I say “fun”, I mean we’re getting a little wacky with it. Many folks consider the SEC the pinnacle of college football, and for good reason. Teams like Georgia and Alabama dominate the college ranks, and send talent to the NFL in droves. So it begs the question: What would a mock draft look like consisting of only SEC selections?

We’re going to answer that question today with a 3-round mock. Now, enough talk, let’s get to the picks! All picks have been made using the Mock Draft Simulator from our friends over at risendraft.com.

2022 Miami Dolphins Mock Draft – 3-Round, All SEC edition

Round 1, Pick 12 – Kenyon Green, iOL, Texas A&M

Right off the bat this mock draft starts off with a ton of tempting options for the Miami Dolphins. With the 12th pick in this simulation, the Dolphins are looking at DT DeMarvin Leal, CB Kaiir Elam, DT Jordan Davis, and WR Treylon Burks as options. Each player has been outstanding this season and would provide the Dolphins with a high-quality player at positions of importance.

However, this pick is about value and need. If we were drafting by a strict “Best SEC player available” strategy, Leal would be the pick. As good as Leal is, the value isn’t there for a defensive tackle at this spot. Especially when there are so many other glaring holes on this Dolphins team. As nice as it would be to add a corner or wide receiver as good as Elam or Burks, the same logic applies.

I know there are going to be some fans who read this and think “Why would we take *another* offensive lineman? We can’t develop them anyway!”. That’s a valid point. The Dolphins have had a terrible run at drafting and developing offensive line talent.

That said, the current offensive line is, well, terrible. It would be malpractice to not at least *try* and address the issue. The team needs to sign a veteran (or two) in free agency, but they also need to draft established, high-quality talent.

Tackle is the bigger issue for the Miami Dolphins offensive line, but the interior needs a complete overhaul as well. Green would be a nice start to that end.

Round 2, Pick 37 – Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A&M

If you thought the Dolphins valuing the interior of the offensive line in the first round was unrealistic, you’re not going to like this pick. If you’ve followed the Miami Dolphins draft habits the past few years, you know they don’t value running back. At all. It was a clear need last year, yet they waited until the sixth round to address the position. With a player who can’t find his way to the field.

It’s still a need, and eventually the team is going to have to address it in a meaningful way. Day 3 guys who fill out the practice squad aren’t going to cut it. Salvon Ahmed and/or Myles Gaskin aren’t cutting it. Neither strategy has worked; it’s time to change things up.

Spillier is one of the most talented running backs in the SEC, if not the entire nation. He’s an explosive playmaker who can be trusted in both the rushing and passing games — a quality you need to be a successful running back in today’s NFL (unless your name is Derrick Henry).

Will the Dolphins take a running back this high when the real 2022 NFL Draft comes along? Almost certainly not. But I told you we were having fun with this Miami Dolphins mock draft. The fans want a running back, and the fans would be getting a running back if it were up to me. There may be better running backs, but Spiller is the top SEC back and was too good to pass up at this spot.

Round 3, Pick 99 – Phidarian Mathis, DL, Alabama

Here’s where our “SEC only” stipulation gets us in trouble. We round out this 3-round 2022 Miami Dolphins mock draft with what many would call a “luxury” pick. Or, even, a bad one. The Dolphins have glaring needs at offensive tackle and linebacker that have yet to be addressed in this mock draft.

Those positions could be addressed in free agency, but the younger, cheaper, talent the NFL Draft offers is usually preferable. However, with the added complication of taking only players from the SEC, the value simply wasn’t there at this spot. Instead, we’re left beefing up the trenches on defense with Alabama defensive tackle Phidarian Mathis.

Mathis is a beast up front. He’s a guy who plays with a high motor and brings an energy to the trenches that Miami could really use. He knows how to read offensive linemen and make them pay when they get sloppy with their technique, and knows how to use his hands well to keep offensive linemen off him and make a play on the ball. 

Mathis would give the Dolphins a nice rotational piece on the defensive line who can be a space eater on the inside. His presence would give the Dolphins some much-needed help defending the rush. However, it’s hard not to come away a bit disappointed with how this Miami Dolphins mock draft plays out at the end. It would have been great to grab a tackle or linebacker, but the fun of this exercise is in the complication!

Dolphins Keys to Victory vs. Buffalo Bills

Miami welcomes the Buffalo Bills to town and has a chance to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the AFC East with a win.

Mandatory Credit: Eric Espada/Getty Images

Week 1 is in the books. It was a slug-fest, but the Dolphins came out on top against Mac Jones and the Patriots in the opener. Thanks to some luck, Miami now sits atop the division. This gives the team a golden opportunity in Week 2. Miami welcomes the Buffalo Bills to town and has a chance to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the AFC East with a win.

Most media and fans alike had the BIlls as an overwhelming favorite to walk away with the AFC East title again. After a loss in Week 1, those hopes certainly aren’t dashed, but it becomes a lot harder should they lose this Sunday to a division foe. For Miami’s part, a win on Sunday puts them at the only 2-0 team in the division and gives them at worst a tie with the Bills when all is said and done in January.

The Dolphins didn’t look spectacular in their Week 1 matchup. They did just enough to get the job done. However, Buffalo is a different beast. It’s going to take a much better performance for the Dolphins to put an early stranglehold on the division. Let’s take a look at what the Dolphins keys to victory are this week.

Contain Josh Allen

The Dolphins defense did a solid job of containing Mac Jones, Josh McDaniels, and the Patriots offense on Sunday . They’re up against a different beast this week. Brain Daboll has done a masterful job with Bills quarterback Josh Allen. Allen has transformed his game from a toolsy, but inconsistent QB, into one of the games’ top passers.

Allen isn’t just dangerous from a passing perspective, either. He’s just as dangerous with his legs, which poses a unique problem for the Dolphins defense. Miami has not been good in recent years against mobile quarterbacks. It’s of critical importance for the Dolphins to keep Allen in the pocket and make him beat them with his arm.

Beating them with his arm is well within Allen’s capability. He’s got one of the strongest arms in the league and has learned to throw with touch instead of firing only fastballs. If the Dolphins secondary can put the clamps on Stefon Diggs and make the supporting cast of receivers step up, it’ll be a long day for Allen and the Bills offense.

Miami played a bend-but-don’t-break defense in Week 1 against the Patriots. Fans should expect a similar result in the Week 2 game. However, that’s playing with fire when you consider how explosive the Bills offense can be. Coverage over the middle of the field will have to improve if Miami is going to walk away 2-0 and firmly atop the division.

Better play from Tua

All offseason, the talk around the Dolphins was centered around quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. The national media wasn’t sold on Tua and needed to see more development from the young quarterback. Dolphins fans on social media were fervent in their defense of Tua. Dolphins beat reporters had a new piece about Tua’s development in camp seemingly every other day. It was something everyone was keeping an eye on, for better or worse.

After the first week of the season, the jury is still out on Tua’s development. On the one hand, it did look to the naked eye like Tua was more aggressive and confident in his decision-making last Sunday. On the other hand, Tua struggled massively in the intermediate areas of the field. Something that is supposed to be his strong suit.

Against the Patriots, Tua completed just one of his eight passes in the 10-19 yard range. The vast majority of the damage Tua did against the Patriots came on passes that traveled less than 10 yards from the line of scrimmage. If Miami has any hope of pulling off the upset against Buffalo, Tua and his receivers will have to be more in-sync in the intermediate areas.

Tua Passing Chart
Mandatory credit: NFL Next Gen Stats

One area of hope for the Dolphins is that the deep ball was reasonably effective against the Patriots. Tua only attempted four passes of 20 yards or more, but he completed two of them. That’s an aspect of the game that was glaringly absent last season. If Tua can connect on a couple of deep balls again this week, it should make things exciting. Having Will Fuller in the mix would have helped greatly in that aspect, but he has been ruled out for Sunday’s game.

Force turnovers

Miami has forced a turnover in 23 straight games. That streak is by far the longest active streak in the NFL. The next closest team has forced a turnover in eight consecutive games. When the streak started, most thought the way they were playing wasn’t sustainable. They’ve proven doubters wrong, forcing a turnover in every game over nearly a season and a half now.

One of the biggest reasons Miami came away with a win on Sunday was the fumble cornerback Xavien Howard forced to put the game on ice. It’s imperative that Miami forces Allen into some poor decisions and can capitalize on those decisions.

Allen is the ultimate gunslinger. He has a powerful arm, and he trusts that arm to make throws that other quarterbacks simply can’t make. That can be a double-edged sword, as it gives defenses a chance to make a play. This defense has been incredibly adept at capitalizing on those opportunities, and they’ll need to again on Sunday.

On paper, Miami comes into the game on Sunday at a considerable disadvantage. The Bills are easily the most talented team in the division. They are one of the most talented rosters in the entire NFL. If Miami is going to pull off the upset, they need things to break their way. They play the game on the field — not on paper — for a reason. By forcing Allen to make mistakes and coming out on top of the turnover battle, suddenly the paper advantage doesn’t mean much.

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Miami Dolphins: Three Keys to Victory vs. New England Patriots

The Miami Dolphins look to start the season with a victory over Mac Jones and the New England Patriots. Here are the keys to victory

Miami Dolphins
Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

The NFL season is finally here! Last night, we had a fantastic game as the defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Bucs survived a scare against Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys. Dallas left several points on the table against Tom Brady, and that’s not a winning formula. Looking ahead to Sunday, what will the winning formula for the Miami Dolphins be when they take on the New England Patriots? Here are the three keys to victory!

Three Keys to a Miami Dolphins Victory

Make Mac Jones look like a rookie

During the lead-up to the NFL Draft, one of the biggest talking points was former Alabama quarterback Mac Jones. Just how high would the former Crimson Tide star be taken? Could he be the third quarterback off the board? Was he even worthy of a first-round pick? Opinions varied wildly on the young quarterback, but ultimately the only one that matters is Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

Belichick made Jones a first-round pick in April. Now he has made Jones the starter of the New England Patriots. Jones has some big shoes to fill, and he’s going to get a major test right out of the gates in the Miami Dolphins defense. Miami had one of the better defenses in the league last year, and they’ve arguably gotten better since then.

Head coach Brian Flores is undoubtedly excited about the idea of unleashing this defense on a rookie quarterback. The Dolphins have added pass-rushing prowess with first-round pick Jaelan Phillips. They also added a chess piece in the defensive backfield with safety Jevon Holland. Coupled with the further development of defensive tackle Raekwon Davis and one of the best corner duos in the league, it’s a recipe for disaster for a rookie quarterback.

Miami will need every bit of that if they’re going to walk away with a win and start their season 1-0. Flores is undoubtedly going to make life a nightmare for Jones, with multiple looks and disguises. Will Jones be able to diagnose what he’s seeing? Will Howard be able to force turnovers at the rate he did last season? New England should be in for a long day if Miami can create pressure up front and confuse Jones behind it.

Improved offensive line play

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The Miami Dolphins have questions along the offensive line. It feels like a broken record to continue harping on the line, but the fact remains there are still significant questions. Watching the offensive line play in the pre-season did not assuage any fears Dolphins fans had about the performance of this line.

To make matters worse, the Dolphins come into the season opener with both injury and COVID issues along the line. Miami is going to be without starting left tackle Austin Jackson. One of his presumptive replacements — rookie Liam Eichenberg — has been dealing with a lingering “lower-body” issue. Fellow newcomer to the Dolphins, Greg Little, is also dealing with injury issues. It’s going to be a significant point of concern for Miami heading into Sunday’s game. The million-dollar question is going to be, “How well can the offensive line hold up?”

All through training camp, we’ve heard about all the progress that Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has made in his second season — and first full training camp. All of that progress won’t mean much if he can’t put it on display because of a porous offensive line in front of him.

Jesse Davis will likely be thrust into the starting lineup regardless of whether or not Eichenberg is fully healthy. Can his veteran leadership bring the offensive line together? Will they be able to protect Tagovailoa and open up holes for running backs, Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed? They’re going to have to if Miami has any hope of starting the season undefeated.

Tua needs to prove his progress

The biggest story line for the Miami Dolphins this off-season has been quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. It has arguably been one of the biggest story lines in the entire league. There’s been talk ad nauseum about what the young quarterback needed to show in year two with the Dolphins.

Pundits and analysts alike have talked until they’re blue in the face about whether or not coach Flores actually believes in Tua. None of that to mention the persistent Deshaun Watson rumors.

All of that — well, maybe not *all* — gets put to rest on Sunday. We saw a bit of his progress in the pre-season, and it was enough to give fans hope that all the talk they’ve heard from camp wasn’t just that. But it’s a much different animal doing those things in the regular season.

If the Dolphins have any hope of walking away from the season opener with a victory, it’s all on Tagovailoa’s shoulders. He needs to show fans — and the Patriots — how much he’s actually progressed in the off-season. He’s finally had an entire off-season to work with the team. He’s been given weapons on the outside with Jaylen Waddle and Will Fuller — who will miss this week’s game due to suspension. It’s time for Tagovailoa to make the leap and become a franchise quarterback.

Miami is going to need some explosive plays if they’re to beat the Patriots. Whether that comes from Waddle, tight end Mike Gesicki, or someone else, remains to be seen. But no matter who it comes from, it’s going to start with the arm of Tua. It’s ‘put up or shut up’ time. One way or another, there’s going to be a firestorm of talk after Sunday’s game. If Tua is on his game, and the defense is on theirs, it should be a Victory Monday for Dolphins fans.

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