DAVIE — Bobby McCain is a fighter, a scrapper and a trash-talker.
Last season, McCain was the Miami Dolphins‘ starting nickel (ie. slot) cornerback and after some up and down moments he is fighting and scrapping to keep that role.
The Dolphins have a lot of cornerbacks. And McCain needs to prove he deserves to stay on the field.
“Slot corners play 75 or 80 percent of the game, especially in this division,” McCain said Thursday after an organized team activity practice. “And with Tom Brady. And Buffalo. You play most of the game. It’s important just because of that. You’re on the field all of the time. And it’s a passing league. You know you don’t see just line up in the I and run the lead. No. It’s stack options. There are all kinds of things happening inside, where you have to communicate. You have to good on your feet. A nickel corner is very important to a great defense.”
Miami did not have a great defense last season.
But Miami’s defense had a great day on Wednesday, in a practice session open to the media.
And near the end of practice, McCain, one of the team’s most emotional, energetic, spirited souls, led a few defensive back teammates in what amounts to a taunting of Miami’s quarterbacks and wide receivers.
McCain is a competitor. Teammate or not, he’s going to compete on every single play.
“Everyone once in a while a coach will give it to you,” McCain explained of the sometimes-vibrant verbal bashing at Miami practices. “That’s just competition. If everyone is out there quiet saying, ‘Oh, we’ve got practice today.’ No. You want to have fun. You want to compete. You want to be the best you can be. And at the end of the day I want to beat the guy that’s in front of me.”
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McCain has a tough assignment in practice, often matched against Miami’s slot wide receiver, Jarvis Landry.
That’s something coach Adam Gase noted earlier this week. Gase said the team believes McCain is improving.
“Bobby improved a lot through the year,” Gase said. “He started to understand what we were asking him to do. We always kind of have that discussion of ‘We’ve got the leverages down, now let’s be tighter. Let’s make some more plays on the ball.’ He’s done that in this camp. He’s had some PBUs (pass breakups) and getting tight on some coverage.”
McCain said one of his points of emphasis in camp is to create more turnovers.
McCain, a fifth-round draft choice of the Dolphins in 2015, has only one interception and one forced fumble in 32 career games.
“Just getting hands on the football,” he said. “That’s what I want to do. That’s what we want to do. The more turnovers I have the more chances the offense gets to score. That’s how we look at it. Being able to create turnovers, get hands on the football. That can make you a championship team.”
McCain’s biggest challenge at the moment would seem to be veteran defensive back Michael Thomas, who feels more comfortable at nickel than safety, where he was forced to play at times last season.
The Dolphins believe Xavien Howard could play inside but he’s still focused on the outside at the moment.
“It’s competition everywhere,” McCain said. “It’s competition every day. And everyone wants to start. Everyone wants to play. Everyone wants to be the guy. And at the end of the day you know you have to go out there and prove it. Every training camp practice, preseason game, regular season game, playoff game, no matter what it is, prove that you can be the guy, and that they can trust you.”
McCain says he knows he can play better than he did last season.
“You can never get comfortable in the NFL,” he said.
He also believes that his best chance to succeed is continue to bring the type of boisterous, blustery, bombastic approach to each snap of each practice rep, preseason game or regular season game.
It’s who he is.
“Mom jokes are going a little far,” he conceded.
But pretty much anything else is fair game.
“We like to have a good time and have fun,” McCain said. “Competition brings out the best in people. And every once in a while giving something to the receivers. It makes it a lot of fun out there.”
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