MIAMI — Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard stood at a podium shortly after walking off the practice field Tuesday when a local reporter asked him who people should be watching for as camp opened.
Howard didn’t hesitate.
“Kader,” he replied.
He was referring to second-year cornerback Kader Kohou, who was a revelation as an undrafted free agent last season. And the potential Kohou flashed as a rookie will need to be developed sooner than expected after Thursday’s news that Jalen Ramsey will undergo surgery on the meniscus in his left knee and is expected to miss the start of the regular season, league sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. One source told Schefter he could miss “a few months,” depending on how the surgery goes.
“My boy, Kader. Dude is a straight dawg,” Howard said. “His mentality he has, just being an undrafted guy, I continue to see him grow and get better on the field.”
Ramsey left practice Thursday after colliding with wide receiver Tyreek Hill during 11-on-11 drills and was carted to the locker room after practice. He underwent an MRI and was diagnosed with a meniscus injury.
It’s a frustratingly familiar story for the Dolphins, who have dealt with injuries at the cornerback position for the past three years — particularly in 2022, when Byron Jones, Nik Needham and Trill Williams missed a combined 45 regular-season games. Even after trading for Ramsey this offseason, Dolphins general manager Chris Grier drafted cornerback Cam Smith in the second round to add depth to the room.
“In this league, and especially in the AFC, with a lot of talented quarterbacks and teams, we can never have enough corners, as we experienced last year with the rash of injuries that we dealt with,” Grier said.
The Dolphins face five of the top 10 teams in ESPN’s Football Power Index in the first 11 weeks, including the Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Jets and Los Angeles Chargers.
While Ramsey’s timetable is fluid at this point, even the best-case scenario is a major setback for the Dolphins’ defense, which is transitioning to a new scheme under defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
Kohou started 13 games as a rookie and could have taken offense to the two major additions the team made at his position.
“First of all, I wasn’t even supposed to be here last year,” he said. “It is always going to be competition and stuff. I was excited when they added Ramsey. He is one of my favorite players to watch. I feel like him being here with X, I’m going to just learn from them, and it’s going to take my game to another level.”
Miami already wasn’t at full strength entering training camp. Needham, a slot cornerback, is making his return from a torn Achilles he suffered last October. He was not placed on the team’s physically unable to perform list and was present for spring practices, doing work off to the side.
As it stands, Kohou and Smith would likely start along with Howard, with Keion Crossen and 2020 first-round pick Noah Igbinoghene in the mix, as well. Trill Williams has also yet to return in full after tearing an ACL last preseason, but he had a strong training camp in 2022 and could challenge for meaningful snaps once by the end of the summer.
That end of the season push gon be legendary! 🙏🏾🧡
— Jalen Ramsey (@jalenramsey) July 27, 2023
Howard was a Pro Bowl selection in each of the past three seasons and an All-Pro in 2020. Now healthy after battling soft tissue injuries in 2021 and 2022, Howard still believes he is a No. 1 cornerback, despite a down year last season.
“I believe? I am a true No. 1. What are you talking about?” Howard laughed on Tuesday. “But we’re cornerbacks. We have that. That’s part of our game.”
The Dolphins have the NFL’s fourth-toughest schedule this season, according to ESPN’s FPI. Miami will need Ramsey for a December playoff push, during which it hosts the Tennessee Titans, Jets and Dallas Cowboys before playing the Baltimore Ravens on the road and ending the regular season at home against the Bills.
“That end of the season push gon be legendary!” Ramsey tweeted Thursday evening.