Chris McCain may have gone undrafted last year out of the University of California, but this year he is on the verge of becoming a starting linebacker for the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins, who struggled last season with missed tackles and mediocre pass coverage, desperately need an athletic defender on the outside. McCain fits that description perfectly and has begun OTAs as the starting strong side linebacker.
McCain made an immediate impact last season as a rookie as on special teams. He consistently made plays on kick offs and punts and blocked a punt against the Patriots that eventually led to a touchdown. He also appeared in ten games as a linebacker totaling four tackles and one sack during his limited play. McCain’s outstanding special teams play has separated him from the other linebackers as the frontrunner to join Koa Misi and Jelani Jenkins on the first team.
At this point in the off-season, the Dolphins have all but locked in Koa Misi as the mike, and Jelani Jenkins will look to build off of a great campaign last year. The other linebackers competing with McCain for the strong side position are Kelvin Sheppard, Jordan Tripp (another talented sophomore) and Spencer Paysinger. McCain definitely has the edge thanks to his speed and size. He is 6-foot-6, 225 pounds and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.67 seconds. He is quick enough to run down ball carriers, and has proven he can tackle, which was an area the Dolphins struggled in last season. McCain’s size and speed also give him the ability to cover big tight ends and receivers, while also staying tight on running backs out of the backfield. His ability to rush the passer makes him a three down defender with a variety of skills.
One of Chris McCain’s most valuable attributes is his age. He is entering just his second season, and comes with a chip on his shoulder after going undrafted last year. The Dolphins took a hit earlier this off-season when former third overall pick Dion Jordan was suspended for the season for a diluted sample. Jordan’s suspension has opened the door for McCain. He still has a lot to learn, but I think McCain will win the starting job and play at a high level season.