Wed, 27 Jan 2021

The Blitz: Nik Needham Excelling Inside

Miami Dolphins
04 Dec 2020, 07:05 GMT+10

Travis Wingfield December 3, 2020

Week 12 is a wrap as the Steelers beat the Ravens on Wednesday evening. Now, the NFL turns to Week 13 where the Dolphins will welcome the Bengals to Hard Rock Stadium in search of an eighth win in 12 games this season.

Today, on the Blitz, we look inside the growth and production of second-year cornerback Nik Needham, look back on Xavien Howard's first career interceptions and get ready for My Cause My Cleats.

Here's what's happening today in Davie.

Wednesday Injury Report and Roster Moves

The Dolphins announced the promotion of defensive tackle Benito Jones to the active roster. Jones has played in four games with two tackles (one solo) this year for Miami.

Dolphins:

Wide receiver/running back Malcolm Perry (chest) and running back DeAndre Washington (hamstring) did not practice Wednesday.

Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (left thumb), offensive guard Solomon Kindley (foot) and running back Salvon Ahmed (shoulder) were limited in Miami's Wednesday practice.

Bengals:

Defensive tackle Geno Atkins, cornerback Tony Brown, defensive tackle Mike Daniels, wide receiver A.J. Green, long snapper Clark Harris, offensive guard Alex Redmond, wide receiver Auden Tate, and safety Brandon Wilson did not practice Wednesday.

Defensive tackle Christian Covington and wide receiver Mike Thomas were limited participants in Cincinnati's Wednesday practice.

For the rest of the Dolphins-Bengals Week 13 injury report, click here.

They Said It

The Dolphins are holding opposing quarterbacks to a passer rating of 83.4, the third-best mark in the NFL. Veterans Eric Rowe, Bobby McCain, Xavien Howard and Byron Jones are joined by second-year pro Nik Needham; an undrafted player out of the University of Texas El Paso in 2019.

Just 23 games into his career, Needham's play-making ability paired with the wisdom imparted by his experienced position-mates has helped him produce the NFL's third-lowest passer rating against when aligned inside at the slot (min. 20 targets, per Pro Football Focus).

"From last year, I remember training camp. He was undrafted and he was out there making plays kind of consistently against our offense," Rowe said. "That kind of gets you on the radar. I'm like, 'all right, who is this guy?' He was undrafted out of El Paso ... Now fast forward to now, he can play inside, outside ... So his development; he's a key piece of the defense."

Around the Beat

Despite Miami's first 7-4 start since the 2016 season, Head Coach Brian Flores remains laser focused on what lies ahead with the Bengals. Joe Schad of the Palm Beach Post has more.

Dolphins On Social

On this Day in Dolphins History

December 3, 2017 - Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard pulls down a pair of interceptions, the first two of his NFL. With his 30-yard touchdown return on the first, Howard led the Dolphins in a 35-9 blowout victory over Denver at Hard Rock Stadium. The Miami defense opened and closed the scoring with a pair of safeties and added a third interception by safety T.J. McDonald to put the Broncos out to pasture. Since that game, Howard has a league-high 19 interceptions.

Stat of the Day

In addition to his polished cover skills, Needham has developed an early knack for finding the football. In his 23 games as a pro, he's pulled down three interceptions, forced a fumble and dropped opposing quarterbacks for a pair of sacks.

Know the Bengals

Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd is one of the best in the business from the inside. Only Buffalo's Cole Beasley has more yards when aligned at the slot position (623 for Boyd, 631 for Beasley). Boyd is in the slot for 86.2 percent of his plays and 80 of his 92 targets come from that position, per PFF.

Content on Tap

The Dolphins are back on the practice field for Day 2 of Bengals preparations. We'll hear from Head Coach Brian Flores and a handful of Dolphins players and recap it all on Top News. Plus, a new edition of the Drive Time podcast welcomes long snapper Blake Ferguson and linebacker Sam Eguavoen to ride shotgun and tell their stories behind the cleats they will wear on Sunday for My Cause My Cleats.

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