The Dolphins acquired linebacker Benardrick McKinney from the Houston Texans in exchange for defensive end Shaq Lawson and a swap of late-round draft picks.
McKinney is entering his seventh year in the NFL. The 28-year-old linebacker made the Pro Bowl in 2018, has 525 career tackles, 14 passes defensed, an interception and four forced fumbles.
Plug in the Texans defensive all-22 and you'll see McKinney setting things up pre-snap. He was the man in the middle, often pointing out shifts, motions and potential pre-snap tells to get his teammates ready for the play.
McKinney's strong against the run and takes on blocks from all kinds of opposing players looking to slow him down. He can run through blocks with brute force, but he's also crafty enough to side-step, swim or find alternative routes to elude road-blocks en route to the ball carrier.
A run-stuffer on early downs, McKinney also has an impressive pass-rush skillset. The new Dolphins linebacker has experience rushing the passer from multiple gaps. He's adept at executing stunts (crossing rush paths with a teammate), particularly when he sets a pick to create an opportunity for his fellow rushers.
At 257 pounds, dropping a wide-bodied, physical presence in the middle of the defense that can play all three downs is a major boon for a defense that utilizes linebackers in many unique ways.
McKinney's career snap count is indicative of his ability to play the role of the modern-day linebacker. Before missing 12 games in 2020, McKinney logged an average of 995 snaps per year over the previous four seasons. There are two routes for a linebacker to sustain that rep count: matching up in coverage or effectively applying pressure on the quarterback.
For McKinney, it's his success rushing the passer that keeps him on the field for every down. He's an explosive athlete with a tremendous first step. Displayed below, McKinney's Combine workout numbers showcase rare vertical and broad jump numbers (both measuring in the 93rd percentile of linebackers).
When watching the Dolphins in 2020, playing 'Where's Waldo' was a requirement for opposing offenses with regards to No. 55 (Baker). Mugged up in the A-gaps (gap between the center and guard), kicked outside as an edge rusher, he did it all; and McKinney's tape is similar.
The Stats (Courtesy of Pro Football Focus)
|Year||Runs Stops (Position Rank)||QB Pressures (Position Rank)|
|2019||40 (t-21st)||17 (t-17th)|
|2018||40 (t-24th)||9 (t-38th)|
|2017||38 (t-29th)||19 (8th)|
|2016||45 (t-11th||20 (t-5th)|
The fluctuation in pressures in 2018 can be explained by his pass-rush opportunities. McKinney blitzed far less frequently that season but still managed a pressure rate of 11.8 percent. Since 2016, his pressure rate has dipped below 11.0 percent only once. For reference, Jerome Baker's pressure rate was 12.6 percent in 2020. Hightower, of the Patriots, had a 12.2 pressure rate his last full season in 2019.
McKinney has played 4,679 snaps in six seasons. His 2019 workload was split as follows:
|Off-ball (off the line of scrimmage)||815|
|On-ball (on the line of scrimmage)||99|
The Roster Impact
McKinney joins a solid linebacker group that features Baker, Andrew Van Ginkel and Vince Biegel among others.
With a potential 1,000-snap player coming in at linebacker, the Dolphins wave goodbye to 572 snaps at another position with the departure of Lawson. His workload ranked third among Dolphins defensive linemen and accounted for 41.5 percent of the snaps taken by players classified as defensive ends. Miami can utilize the flexibility of Christian Wilkins and Zach Sieler and/or attack an the free agent class of defensive ends, or wait until the draft.
McKinney's instincts are immediately evident. He's a try-hard, high-motor player that brings aggression, physicality and a certain temperament to a defense. He likes to punish opposing ball carriers, pulling guards and lead-blockers and has enough wiggle to get to the quarterback as a pass rusher.
He'll fit nicely into a Dolphins defense that thrives on versatility and requires frequent pre-snap communication.