There are two ways to look at the possibility of the Dolphins using cornerback Xavien Howard to shadow Buffalo wide receiver Stefon Diggs in Sunday’s AFC East matchup.

The attention-grabbing, headline-grabbing point of view is that it sets up a titanic battle between Howard, an All Pro, and Diggs, another All Pro, a matchup that could be as good as the game itself.

“I want to go up against the best because I think I’m the best,” Howard said. “I like the one-on-one match. That’s what I do.”

Howard vs. Diggs is a matchup we saw last season.

It’s not necessarily a match that decides the game. Buffalo beat the Dolphins twice last season, and Howard, arguably the best cornerback in the league, followed Diggs both times.

Still, it’s an incredibly sexy match. These are the two best games going head-to-head, head-to-head. And according to Howard, there’s no whining.

“No one talks when we play,” said Howard, who leads the NFL with 27 interceptions over the past five seasons, “because I don’t say anything to anybody.”

There’s another side to the story of the matchup, where Nick Needham, the Dolphins’ presumed starting cornerback against Howard, can expect to see plenty of action.

Needham said he was ready.

“Coach always said, ‘Just be ready because the quarterback is going to test you at times,'” Needham said. “And you just have to be willing to make those plays.”

Fortunately for Needham and the Dolphins, the Bills don’t have the type of wide receiver set that the Dolphins have in Tyreek Hill and Jalen Waddle. So the Dolphins might feel comfortable with Needham on Bills wide receivers Isaiah McKenzie (four receptions, 56 yards, one touchdown) or Gabe Davis (four receptions, 88 yards, one touchdown).

The Dolphins also have other linebackers in Keion Crossen and Kader Koch, so it won’t all be on Needham. It’s a difficult task to have a target like that on your back opposite Howard. You know the quarterback wants to go your way. It boils the game down to the basics.

“It’s a man-to-man game,” Crossen said. “Simple football”.

The same is true for Howard-Diggs.

Buffalo won’t shy away from going after Diggs because he’s their best receiver and one of their best players. Teams usually do not lose strength. It will be up to Howard to take their forces.

In the opener, Howard shadowed New England wide receiver Devante Parker, holding him to one reception for nine yards on two targets.

Diggs, however, is in a different class.

Diggs (20 receptions, 274 yards, four touchdowns), to borrow a phrase Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa used to describe Bills quarterback Josh Allen, is a beast.

And Allen will often throw the ball his way.

Diggs has more than twice as many receptions (20 to 8) and targets (24 to 11) as his two fellow starting quarterbacks, McKenzie and Davis, combined.

Diggs, one of the NFL’s top receivers, is second in the league behind Hill (25 receptions, 284 yards, two touchdowns).

In last year’s Dolphins-Bills game in Buffalo on Halloween, a 26-11 Bills victory, their seventh straight victory over the Dolphins, Diggs finished with five receptions for 40 yards and a touchdown. Hit the target seven times. The touchdown came on a 19-yard pass in the third quarter that gave the Bills a 17-3 lead.

In the first meeting between the Dolphins and Bills last year, a 35-0 Buffalo victory, Diggs finished with four receptions for 60 yards with a 5-yard touchdown. He came under fire eight times.

A lot of things make Diggs tough to defend, but a few stand out.

“I would say his route running, hands, [and] especially a quarterback holding the ball so long, extending plays, it makes it a tough job,” Howard said.

Diggs can kick the ball.

But so can Howard, a two-time All-Pro, three-time All-Pro and two-time NFL interception leader.

Howard was overshadowed by receivers like AJ Brown of Philadelphia (when he was with Tennessee), DeAndre Hopkins of Arizona (when he was with Houston), Antonio Brown of Tampa Bay and others.

He likes challenges.

“I accept the match,” Howard said, “and I’m ready for it.”

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https://www.readingeagle.com/2022/09/22/chris-perkins-howard-vs-diggs-matchup-could-be-as-good-as-the-dolphins-vs-bills-matchup/

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