Verner was raised in this diverse, multicultural city featuring a college campus as well as a mix of industry and residential. Carson borders Compton and Long Beach, and the Dolphins will play the Chargers at the StubHub Center, a soccer stadium that holds 27,000 fans.
“When I was growing up and they first built the stadium, our high school football championships were there,” Verner said. “I never made it to the championship but I’ve been to the games and it was a good experience. But that was high school at the time. So it’s going to be interesting to see how they do it for the pro team.”
The Dolphins haven’t played a regular-season game in 258 days and with Hurricane Irma postponing the opener and so many off-field storylines — injuries to Ryan Tannehill and Raekwon McMillan as well as an unresolved contract situation with Jarvis Landry — the Dolphins have seemed bottled up all week.
“You see all the other people playing and you want to go,” Verner said. “You’ve been putting in all the work since training camp and you know this team had a playoff loss, has a lot of things probably on their mind. So you want to get ready to thump somebody.”
Verner wasn’t a part of Miami’s playoff loss to Pittsburgh last season. But he was brought in to add cornerback depth. And Verner has played so well in practice and the preseason he was actually competing for a starting position this week.
Opposite sophomore riser Xavien Howard on Sunday will be either Verner or Byron Maxwell.
As of post-practice on Friday, Verner said he didn’t know if was starting.
“We’ve been competing all week,” Verner said of he and Maxwell. “You know, I think I have put myself in a position to start. But ultimately it’s going to be their call. And I’m going to be OK with whatever decision they make because I put in my all.”
The Dolphins have said the starting cornerback could be determined on a matchup basis. For example, against a bigger, more physical receiver, Maxwell could be an ideal matchup.
Against a smaller, quicker, more slippery receiver, Verner could be an ideal matchup.
Also to be resolved is if the Dolphins will ask Howard to shadow the opponents’ top receiver, or if the team will use a traditional left-right cornerback setup, with Maxwell or Verner on the left and Howard on the right.
Again, this could be determined on a week-to-week basis.
Same goes for man or zone. Miami intended to play a lot of man coverage last season, but ended up playing a lot of zone.
“I always prefer man because it’s easier for us assignment-wise,” Verner said. “Just guard this guy. It’s harder but it’s easier from an assignment perspective. But you know we always go game in and game out just seeing what’s best for the team that week.”
Verner said this will be the fifth time he’s faced Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.
“Disguise him,” Verner said. “And get pressure on him. If it’s just four people he’s so good at playing the game and he’s seen everything. Just try to do your best to try to fool him. But it’s hard. He makes some really good passes. But when he does do something you can take advantage of it, you’ve got to take advantage of it.”
Verner wants to start. He would love it to be in the town where he hosts an annual football and cheer camp for youth. But whether he starts against the Chargers or not, he figures to play a lot this season.
“At the end of the day (the coaches are) trying to win,” Verner said. “They’re going to put the people out there that give them the best chance to win.”