Bobby McCain has a 4-year deal worth $27 million, including $13 million guaranteed, making him the highest-paid nickel back in the NFL, according to a source.
McCain was often Miami’s best cornerback in 2017, outperforming teammates Cordrea Tankersley, Xavien Howard and released Byron Maxwell. McCain was so good the team will even consider giving him some outside repetitions this season.
McCain is only 5-11, 192 pounds, but coaches cite his diligence on and off the field. McCain is also one of the most fiery Dolphins, both during games and practices.
“I need him outside and I’m going to need him inside,” Dolphins defensive backs coach Tony Oden said. “If he’s in the game, it’s going to happen. If we don’t practice that, I can’t expect him to compete and excel at an elite level if we haven’t practiced it.”
Miami coach Adam Gase has been a fan of McCain since his arrival. Gase has pushed back on any criticism of McCain citing him as a player who always does things right.
“The spot that he plays, there’s so much nickel personnel that’s being played that he probably played 600-plus snaps last year,” Gase said. “That’s just the way the game is. If he had to play outside, then slot inside and do things like that, it’s a lot of plays.”
McCain was a fifth-round draft choice from Memphis in 2015. McCain has 3 career interceptions, 17 passes defended and has played 16 games in each of his three NFL seasons.
ORLANDO — There was a lot of talk about small wide receivers on Tuesday morning.
Albert Wilson is fast, but small. Danny Amendola is quick, but small. Jakeem Grant is lightning, but small.
Jarvis Landry is gone, but he was pretty small.
You know who’s not small? DeVante Parker.
The Dolphins have this group of, well, small receivers. Not that that can’t work.
But lost in all the talk about Ryan Tannehill’s return and Landry’s departure and the new offensive linemen, is the notion of what DeVante Parker may mean for the 2018 Dolphins offense.
Well, that’s because many fans are sort of – over it.
They’re tired of hearing about Parker’s potential. His upside.
They’re tired of hearing how he’s going to be a fantasy football breakout star. And how he has the skill set to be a Pro Bowler. And how his unique combination of size (6-foot-3) and athleticism — blah, blah, blah.
So many people are over it.
Well, at the NFL owner’s meeting on Tuesday, Dolphins coach Adam Gase indicated he is not yet completely over it.
In other words, Gase has not yet completely given up on the idea of what Parker may be.
“I would say I feel like we know what he can do, in our building,” Gase said. “I don’t think there is any question what anybody feels he can do. I don’t even think it’s a potential thing. I think it’s a health thing. I think it’s just about however we can keep him healthy. I think that’s when we get our best DeVante Parker. So I think we’re trying to do as much as we can to figure out a way that when we hit spring we start from there and keep building on it. It’s just unpredictable. We need a little bit of luck. We need him to do the right things. And he has been. He’s been trying to do everything the right way. And it’s just kind of have to see where the chips fall.”
Maybe an under-the-radar Parker will be a better Parker. Maybe a contract-year Parker will be a better Parker.
Maybe he’ll just catch a break. Maybe he’s just really been an unlucky fellow.
Parker did play a season-high 13 games in 2017, but delivered only 52 receiving yards per game. And Parker’s yards per catch were a career-low 11.8.
Before he was hurt, quarterback Ryan Tannehill couldn’t stop gushing about his expectations for Parker. So maybe, maybe, his return will help.
Parker is about to enter his fourth NFL season. He’s just turned 25, still a relatively young colt from Louisville, Kentucky.
Parker’s still set is unique. But will the whole unicorn thing ever come to fruition in South Florida?
“I’ve always been a big fan of having as many different guys as you can,” Gase said of his receiving group. “And we’ve got a good variety. We’ve got a lot of speed. Different sizes. We just have to keep guys healthy and on the field.”
LAKE BUENA VISTA — The NFL has had a polarizing few seasons in many ways, notably some feeling athletes should stick to sports and not protest injustice, while others praise the social activism of some players.
One of the most outspoken players in the league, defensive lineman Michael Bennett of the Seahawks, praised Michael Thomas, Kenny Stills and Julius Thomas of the Dolphins, in comments to the Palm Beach Post on Friday at the Pro Bowl.
All three Dolphins have played key roles in community outreaches and have also drawn attention to social issues by kneeling during national anthems before NFL games.
“What they do in football is just a small part of their life,” Bennett said. “But what they do outside the field is what you really want from a man. I think they’re doing a great job of showing a commitment to their community. And a commitment to people. I think the most important thing is not being an NFL player, but being a global citizen and I think those guys are global citizens. They speak up for people who don’t have a voice. And they use their platform to continuously build bridges to different communities. And bring in the organization to places that they’ve never been. And I think all those guys are leaders and the team is lucky to have them.”
Bennett has celebrated a successful play by raising his fist high into the air. Bennett, one of the NFL’s leaders in the area of social justice, explained that “the raised fist represent unity or solidarity with oppressed peoples.”
Bennett has sat during some national anthems, protesting the mistreatment of minorities and the need for police reform. Bennett said he has frequently engaged Michael and Julius Thomas and Stills in highly-productive conversations.
“I’ve had so many memorable conversations with those guys to where they always put the people first,” Bennett said. “They always put the community first. And I think they’re always trying to put those people that don’t have a voice out there. And I think that’s what makes them so special. And I continuously love working with them because of that.”
Miami Dolphins players and Dolphins owner Stephen Ross have created a yearly fund, with the purpose of advocating for and sponsoring social justice programs in South Florida. Stills is traveling the country in his 1972 Volkswagen bus, volunteering his time and meeting people in grassroots organizations.
Bennett said that the NFL is never going to be able to stop the players from expressing their feelings about important issues outside of football.
“I think there has never been a proper place to speak about real issues,” Bennett told The Post. “Because nobody wants to talk about real issues that these guys are talking about. At the same time, it’s our job as human beings to take care of other human beings. That’s the most important thing people can possibly do. And I think they do a good job of that. And I think the NFL can’t stop us from speaking our mind. Or telling our truth. I think we all have a story. And I think our story needs to be told. In our way. And through our eyes. And through our vision. And we’ve got to continuously, don’t lose our voice. And I think people before us fought to have a voice and we have to continue to have that voice.”
Running back Jay Ajayi continues to “love” his former teammates on the Dolphins, he told the Philadelphia media Wednesday in his first appearance with reporters there after being traded for a fourth-round draft choice.
“It’s a business and at the end of the day, I can honestly say I respect the Dolphins for giving me the opportunity to chase my dream of being in the NFL and I can say I respect all my teammates,” Ajayi said.
“I love those guys. Bled, fought, won a lot of games with them and enjoyed my time as a Miami Dolphin. But at the end of the day, God had another plan for me and that was to be here, be on the Philadelphia Eagles. We’re 7-1 and I’m excited about that, with the opportunity to go get this thing.”
Ajayi didn’t directly address philosophical differences with Dolphins coach Adam Gase, which led to the deal.
“Those are the criticisms that are out there,” Ajayi said. “I can only speak on how I view myself and I view myself as a team guy and I’m excited to be here on the Eagles, excited for the opportunity. And that stuff at the end of the day is in the past. I woke up today as a Philadelphia Eagle and I’m very excited about that.”
A major criticism from Gase was that Ajayi was always looking for the home run. Ajayi took issue with it when asked how he goes about taking what the defense gives.
“I think that my style is my style,” Ajayi said. “I don’t think it’s a style of always looking to bounce. I think it’s a style of taking what the defense gives you and creating things when there’s nothing there. I think that’s a lot of my style being able to break tackles, downhill and being able to make big plays for the team. I don’t think that’s going to change.”
Ajayi said the trade caught him by surprise.
“It’s been crazy,” he said. “Never thought I’d be traded. That’s something a little bit of a new challenge, new adversity but I feel like I’m built for it. Had a lot of ups and downs in my career. I’m excited to have this.”
Although the Dolphins had been substituting Ajayi on third down, he still sees himself as a versatile back.
“I view myself as a three-down guy,” he said. “I can be counted on to do anything that the offense needs me to do.”
Ajayi’s presence will take carries away from LeGarrette Blount, the Eagles’ leading rusher. But Ajayi said he and Blount had gotten to know each other of late and their relationship is cordial.
“I’ve been able to build a respect relationship with him and we’ve had conversations here and there,” Ajayi said. “Now being a teammate, it’s a just a really cool dynamic now. … Especially with me being the new guy, I’m just trying to join with whatever they’ve got going and not try to be a distraction or anything. Just trying to help.”
CARSON, Calif. — If there was any doubt that Jay Ajayi is going to be the centerpiece of the Miami Dolphins offense again in 2017, just look inside Sunday’s box score.
Jay Ajayi: 28 carries for 122 yards
Kenyan Drake: 1 carry for -3 yards
Damien Williams: 0 carries for 0 yards
Jay Cutler may be the shiny new toy. Jarvis Landry may be the third-down security blanket. And DeVante Parker may be the spectacular unicorn.
But Ajayi, for as long as he can carry the Dolphins, is going to be the workhorse.
“I will tell you what,” Cutler said after Miami’s upset win at the Los Angeles Chargers. “I think I have the best seat in the house. He is fun to watch. I mean breaking tackles and spinning. I think he has enough speed to get to the edge. He is a heck of a back and I am glad he is on our team.”
Interestingly, coach Adam Gase said the team used a few running schemes it didn’t in 2016.
“We did a few things that we didn’t really do last year and we did a good job,” Gase said. “He executed the schemes well and used his ability to make more.”
Ajayi wants more consistency in 2017 and he’s off to a good start.
Last season, Ajayi ran for more than 200 yards three times but only one other time went over 100.
Ajayi could be in line to top the 1,272 yards he posted last season.
“Through this offseason and preseason I really pushed myself to be great and just work on my consistency to be that guy and increase my role on this team,” Ajayi said. “I think that I was taking the right steps. The offensive line was doing a great job today being physical and I think that’s what we needed today to be physical and keep us in the game. At the end of the game we were able to get just enough to be able to put us in good field goal range and (Cody) Parkey hit it. After that, it was good.”
Ajayi raises a good point.
The Dolphins were trailing the Chargers 17-16 with 3:02 to play and the ball at Miami’s 49-yard line.
Who did Gase call upon, seeking at least 20 yards to gain field-goal position?
Ajayi right tackle. Ajayi right tackle. Ajayi right end. Short pass to Ajayi.
This is setting a tone for Miami’s season.
“It’s how (Ajayi) approaches every day at practice,” offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James said. “Ever since he got on that roll last year he’s been a different guy. He’s definitely an energizer for our offense.”
Ajayi is one of the most difficult players in the NFL to tackle.
He is determined. He is relentless. He is dogged.
“Anytime you have Jay back there, if you can get the guys to cover up he’s going to hit it hard enough to where if you graze him that’s not going to bring him down,” Gase said. “He runs hard. He gives everything he has on every play. He’s been practicing like that through spring and training camp and it hasn’t changed. We saw him today. We saw what happens when he gets just a little bit of a crease.”
CARSON, Calif. — Of course Alterraun Verner needed more than 20 tickets for family and friends at the Miami Dolphins season opener at the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday.
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.”
OXNARD, Calif. — Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase named five captains on Thursday, but when asked to name a few emerging leaders on the team, he called out a few additional players.
Gase cited captains Cameron Wake, Ndamukong Suh, Michael Thomas, Kenny Stills and Mike Pouncey.
Three players that were not named captains but cited by Gase as emerging leaders were interesting:
• Jay Cutler, quarterback
• Lawrence Timmons, linebacker
• Reshad Jones, safety
This is actually Cutler’s sixth week as a Dolphin, though it doesn’t seem like he’s been around that long.
“I hadn’t been around Jay much,” Dolphins offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said. “I think probably the thing that surprised me is how natural he is with the no-huddle stuff. He’s an even-kneeled guy. He picked up things so quickly. I thought it would take a little bit of a while just to get back in rhythm; but again, it just shows he has done it for so long, and he’s a veteran guy.”
Players and coaches have privately and publicly mentioned several times since Timmons’ arrival as a free agent that he possesses leadership traits.
“I look at a guy like Lawrence Timmons,” Gase said. “When you watch him practice and you watch how he plays in preseason games, you would think this is his first or second year in the league. He doesn’t say a whole bunch but the way he operates and the way he goes about his business, I think guys respect that and understand why he’s been in the league so long and why he’s been so successful. That’s the great thing about the NFL. Each year is so different.”
Gase stated that Jones, who is not at all boisterous in the locker room, is becoming a more vocal leader.
“Last year, we were looking for guys to step up and be leaders and this year, Reshad Jones is a very vocal leader for us,” Gase said. “Just to see how these guys have taken over this program and it’s their locker room, it’s been fun to watch.”
OXNARD, Calif. — Miami Dolphins special teams coach Darren Rizzi cited rookies Maurice Smith, Torry McTyer and Chase Allen as three rookies who are ready to contribute effectively.
All three players were undrafted and all figure to play on Sunday against the Chargers.
“‘Mo’ (Maurice) Smith definitely jumped out,” Rizzi said. “He flashed in every one of our games, every one of the preseason games. He played in all of them on special teams and defense, and he definitely jumped out at us as a guy that it didn’t seem too big for him.”
Smith is a safety who can also play cornerback.
McTyer is a cornerback who can also play safety.
Allen is an option at middle linebacker behind Mike Hull, if Rey Maualuga is not available.
“A couple of guys that I thought really got better as we went along were Chase Allen and Torry McTyer,” Rizzi said. “I thought those guys really progressed nicely. (They had) really a nice rookie progression as camp moved forward and they were peaking at the end of preseason.”
Third-year running back Senorise Perry also figures to be a key special teams contributor, according to Rizzi. Perry made the team over Storm Johnson and it seems special teams were a factor.
“Senorise Perry really played well on special teams, in many different facets,” Rizzi said. “I think many people will probably point at (the fact that) he fumbled a kick return and all that, but he really played well in all of the other facets. I was really, really impressed with him. So those guys, all of those guys, were impressive throughout for a lot of different reasons.”
It’s never easy for a special teams coach to know how youngsters will respond in the opener.
“It’s a big learning curve because a lot of these guys haven’t done it at all,” Rizzi said. “It’ll be the first time – if some of these guys are active on Sunday – it’ll be the first time ever doing it in live action. Listen, the preseason, there’s a lot of great things about the preseason, but it really for me as a special teams coach, is a lot different than offense or defense, because we’re really evaluating personnel… Some of those guys have played a little bit (of special teams), but a lot of them have not, so that’s what we’re really trying to drum home in their minds is that this regular season is going to be amped up a notch. It’s going to be a little bit different for them; but all of those guys, in one way or another, have really shown it.”
OXNARD, Calif. — When Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi ended up on the first injury report of the 2017 season, there was understandable concern.
Ajayi, who rushed for 1,272 yards last season, was listed with a knee injury.
Coach Adam Gase didn’t seem too concerned on Thursday.
“I don’t really see him as being hurt,” Gase said before practice. “He just is a little sore. I mean that’s just kind of, it’s been like that for a while.”
Ajayi’s knees were a concern when he was drafted out of Boise State. That has been cited as one of the reasons a player with Ajayi’s obvious talents slipped to the fifth round in 2015.
Ajayi had 11 rushes for 51 yards and two touchdowns in the preseason.
One year ago, Ajayi didn’t even make the trip to Seattle for the first game of the Dolphins season. Ajayi had not been scheduled to play and he did not react well to the news.
Much has changed.
“I think anytime you do anything, you learn so much through experience,” Gase said. “In this league, one week feels like a month or two. I mean you learn a lot in a short period of time. And you kind of have to because the careers area so short. You don’t have a lot of time to say hey I’ll get it in three or four years. When you play and you learn that is the key.”
“Toward the end of the season, we know we’ll probably have to back it off a little bit in practice,” Pouncey said.
Keeping Pouncey at his best throughout this season was going to be a challenge, even without the unexpected first-week bye.
The plan has been for Pouncey to participate in a very limited fashion, no more than every other day, in Dolphins practices, as he recovers from a hip injury.
And it turns out the extra week of rest, and a preseason plan of lots of extra rest, is a benefit to Pouncey.
“It’s impacted it in a big way,” Pouncey said. “Because I feel good. And that’s the biggest thing we want to do, is me feel good to start the season. The schedule that we have, the plan that we have, has been awesome so far. And we’ll continue that throughout the season and see how it goes. If I keep feeling like this, then we’ll do more and more throughout the week.”
Gase’s goal has been simply to get Pouncey through “16-plus” games, so an increase in practice repetitions for the veteran is always going to be subject to intense negotiation. Pouncey is Miami’s best offensive lineman, and the key to Jay Ajayi’s rushing success last season.
When Ajayi ran for 204 yards against the Steelers and 214 yards against the Bills in consecutive weeks last October, who was at center?
That’s right — Mike Pouncey.
Due to Hurricane Irma, Pouncey visited family in Pittsburgh last week, including brother Maurkice, center for the Steelers. Because Miami would have eight days between practices, Pouncey decided he needed some physical activity, so he worked out twice.
Miami quarterback Jay Cutler mentioned Wednesday that overall, the offense was rusty, which is to be expected after the layoff.
It turns out Pouncey feels even more ready for the season after some more down time. The postponement of the Tampa Bay opener contained a silver lining.
“It wasn’t frustrating at all for me,” Pouncey said. “Because another week for me was pretty good.”
Player after player mentioned how Gase has really tried to shift all focus to football.
“It’s one week at a time,” Pouncey said of Gase’s message. “Just come out of this week 1-0. That’s the only message. We don’t want any distractions. It’s all about football. It’s football season. And there is nothing that should distract you during football season.”
Pouncey’s last game was on the road, against the Chargers, last Nov. 13.
It was so long ago, the Chargers moved to Los Angeles and will play Sunday’s game in Carson, Calif.
“I wasn’t feeling any pain that game,” Pouncey recalled. “It was that next Wednesday in practice. But during the game I felt great. I had a good game that day and it just sucked that I had to go down in practice the way I did. But I’m happy to be back. I’m excited. I can’t wait. It’s been a long time since I’ve been out there playing football. But I’m ready for it on Sunday.”