Chris Perkins: Dolphins’ Noah Igbinoghene ready to take next step — or the first step — to being an NFL starter – The Denver Post
As Dolphins cornerback Noah Igbinoghene sat at his locker Wednesday afternoon, everything was cool, and life was good. He smiled, he was introspective, and seemed committed to making a change after the sluggish two-year start to his career.
“I believe I had a very, very good training camp, a very good offseason,” said Igbinoghene, the 2020 first-round pick from Auburn, “and I’m ready for my opportunity, whenever that comes.”
There aren’t many 22-year-olds seeking redemption, which puts Igbinoghene in a rare class. His personal Redemption Tour starts Sunday.
“I’m looking forward to the future, and I’m forgetting the past,” he said.
Igbinoghene, who started all three preseason games and started throughout training camp, is the likely starter Sunday when Miami hosts New England in the season opener at Hard Rock Stadium. Dolphins cornerback Byron Jones, the usual starter, is on the physically-unable-to-perform list, meaning he’ll miss at least four weeks.
Of course, Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel could pull the okey doke and start veteran cornerback Keion Crossen, a special teams standout, or cornerback Kader Kohou, an undrafted rookie from Texas A&M-Commerce, a Division II school, opposite Xavien Howard.
But it’s likely Igbinoghene, who is teetering on the brink of getting the dreaded “bust” label, gets the start.
“I put in that work in training camp and in the offseason so I can turn into the player I want to be,” he said.
Igbinoghene has a chance to make an impression on Dolphins coaches, a group that includes former Dolphins Pro Bowl cornerbacks Sam Madison and Pat Surtain, and the entire NFL while proving he’s worthy of his draft status.
“I think he himself, when it’s all said and done, wants there to be no conversation about whether or not he’s a starter or not,” McDaniel said. “That’s his goal.”
Considering the recent past, that’s a lofty goal. Igbinoghene has played in 23 games, mostly on special teams, and he’s totaled 19 tackles, two passes defended and one recovered fumble. That’s it.
Being this is just his third season, his goal of being considered a starting-caliber player remains within reach. But he’s got to bring it this year.
“It’s crazy how bad stuff happens to you, or stuff happens that you don’t expect, it leads you to go deeper into your craft and go deeper into that grind, and maybe even go deeper into your head,” Igbinoghene said.
“Like coach said, pressure is going to build diamonds, and that pressure, whatever you say it is, it’s going to turn into something beautiful.”
Igbinoghene, who started two games as a rookie, was a healthy scratch in four of his first five games last season, a huge disappointment for a first-round pick. Cornerback Trill Williams, an undrafted rookie in 2021, was active over Igbonoghene for some of those games.
Igbinoghene started against Jacksonville in London, his first start of the 2021 season, and had a couple of hiccups against Jaguars wide receiver Marvin Jones, including a 28-yard touchdown pass shortly before halftime, but he played OK overall, according to Miami coaches.
The next step is playing well.
Igbinoghene expects Patriots quarterback Mac Jones to throw his way early and often Sunday. It makes sense. Igbinoghene is playing opposite Howard, an All-Pro cornerback . Nobody wants to throw at Howard. Being targeted is definitely on Igbinoghene’s mind.
“I have that in mind because that’s just how the league works,” Igbinoghene said. “X earned that respect and earned that label of guys not wanting to look at him because he’s been great in this league, he’s done a lot of great things.”
Igbinoghene thinks he, too, can do great things in this league. The offseason and training camp gave him that belief.
“I definitely have more confidence and I feel like confidence comes from preparing,” he said. “Anxiety and all that other stuff comes from not preparing. And when you’re training right and eating right, and you take care of your body, and you’re doing everything right, when you come to work every single day, you should have nothing but confidence for the future.”
And, yeah, he has a plan to stop the Patriots from picking on him, if that’s what happens.
“My job would just be to not allow them to catch it,” he said, “and so maybe they’ll stop coming my way after that.”
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