Chris McCain Looks To Grow Into Increased Role

Posted Jun 30, 2015

After a rookie season in which he learned plenty, Chris McCain is working towards an expanded role on the Dolphins defense in 2015.

Chris McCain has proven himself to be a very interesting individual since he first joined the Dolphins last season.

After making the team as an undrafted rookie free agent, McCain made it a routine of picking out a kid in the stands before every game and then walking and talking with him during warmups.

McCain is one of the most active Dolphins players when it comes to Twitter, and he regularly interacts with fans on that platform.

This spring McCain revealed he owned a tarantula while he was at the University of California and it was for a simple reason: to get over his fear of spiders.

And then there’s his Twitter handle, “Eret,” a nickname he said he got in college and is slang/short for “everything.”

Yes, McCain indeed is an interesting individual. More important to the Dolphins organization, though, is the fact he’s also an interesting prospect.

McCain got only 46 snaps on defense as a rookie last season, but his potential is such that he lined up with the first-team defense at outside linebacker for most of the spring practices open to the media.

“It definitely builds my confidence, but I can’t get too complacent,” McCain said this spring. “I’ve had my reps with the 1s, but we all had our reps with the 1s. Nothing is set. I’m not worried about it. I’m not worried, thinking I’m going to start. If I don’t start, it’s fine. I’m cool with it. Whatever person is going to start deserves it and whenever I get my chance to give them a breather, I’m going to do what I can do. As long as we get in there and play physical and win some games, I’m all with it.”

That doesn’t mean McCain isn’t confident he’ll start, because he is.

The biggest reason is that McCain has become more of a student of the game as he prepares for his second season. The physical tools — size, long arms, athleticism — already are there.

“I kind of thought some concepts were kind of the same from college, then you start seeing different offenses,” McCain said. “Coming from the Pac-12 to the NFL is totally different. The Pac-12 was more spread and speed and passing. I didn’t really have too much responsibility. Then you get to the NFL, it’s a lot different. So I definitely should' have studied more.

“Last season I believe I had the time I deserved. I didn't have too many snaps but I also wasn’t really fine with the playbook like I should have been. Coming in there were a lot of things I was trying to understand coming from college. I just had to get my feet wet a little bit. But they threw me in there when they could and I believe I did pretty good. I believe I set myself up for this year, which I believe is going to be a big year for all of us.”

McCain’s teammates clearly noticed a change this spring.

“He’s definitely grown as a player, as a person,” said fellow linebacker Koa Misi. “He’s starting to get into becoming a vet a little bit better in the way that he’s learning and the way that he works. He’s definitely progressing as a player and you can see that on the practice field and in the meeting rooms. I think he’ll be good this year.”

McCain provided a glimpse in his very first NFL game of the kind of playmaker he could become when he blocked a punt in the first quarter and later sacked Tom Brady in the Dolphins’ 33-20 victory against the eventual Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in the season opener.

Most of McCain’s snaps on defense last season were spent at defensive end, with a few coming at outside linebacker.

While he lined up primarily at linebacker in the spring practices open to the media, he also got snaps at defensive end.

With physical dimensions resembling those of former Dolphins great Jason Taylor, McCain is the prototypical hybrid DE/OLB.

“Chris is a really good athlete,” defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said. “He’s got good coverage skills. He’s got length. He’s got good pass rush skills. He’s a good blitzer. Some of his skill set lends to the linebacker position, some of it lends to being a pass rusher. Our charge right now is to make sure he’s getting enough work rushing the passer and at the linebacker position. He’s been getting a lot of base work at linebacker and a lot of rush work with our nickel package.”

Head Coach Joe Philbin wasn’t ready to anoint McCain as a starter in the spring. He said the most important things he wants to continue seeing from McCain are consistency and development.

For his part, the second-year player is happy with his progress.

“I’m a lot more comfortable this year,” McCain said. “I believe that the coaches see I feel a lot more comfortable and they put their trust in me out there and I’m progressing really well right now.

“I’m just long and lanky. I cover up ground. I think I’m pretty physical and I give it my all every play. I just try my best to do what they want me to do and I believe that they can tell that over the offseason I’ve been working and I’ve been trying to try to get this starting job.”