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Miami Dolphins activate Xavien Howard

Help is on the way!

Miami Dolphins rookie cornerback Xavien Howard, projected by many within the organization as a starter in 2016, has been activated off the active physically unable to perform list, according to a league source.

[Update: The team has now announced this move.]

That means Howard, who had been recovering from minor knee surgery, passed his physical Thursday.

He will not play Friday when the Dolphins take on the Dallas Cowboys in their second preseason game. But Howard will be cleared to practice Sunday when the team returns to their field in preparation for their third preseason game next week.

Howard, the team's second round draft pick, is much-needed. Coaches had him penciled in as the starter almost from the second he was drafted -- in part because the Dolphins need a cornerback to play opposite Byron Maxwell.

Yes, Tony Lippett has been the starter at that position since early in the offseason. And, yes, Lippett has shown steady improvement as he continues to transition from a college wide receiver in 2014 to an NFL man-press cornerback. But Lippett has had bouts of uneven play during training camp and there's a question whether he might need more honing before he gets significant regular-season action.

Howard becoming active does not guarantee he'll take the job from Lippett, however. At least not immediately. Howard is a rookie. He has missed all of training camp since it opened July 29. It will very likely take him some time to get in football shape.

And the Dolphins are unlikely to simply throw Howard into the mix full bore when he does resume practicing Sunday. It will likely be an easing-in process to such a degree it is uncertain whether he'll play in the third preseason game Aug. 25 in Orlando.

But the Dolphins have planned for Howard to be available for the regular-season opener the entire time he's been rehabilitating and he is definitely on schedule to meet that timetable. Graduating off the PUP list is significant in that process.

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