As Brice McCain, Jamar Taylor and rookie corner Tony Lippett readied for Wednesday’s practice, they stopped putting on their pads for a second or two to share in a laugh.
So if there’s any awkwardness over the first depth chart of the season — which named McCain as the starter ahead of Taylor for Week 1 — they did a great job of masking it.
“Nothing’s going to change since they released the depth chart,” McCain said. “We’re still buddies. We’re still cool. We’re still homeboys, and we’re still going to work. We’re going to critique each other, help each other out.”
McCain added: “We need each other.”
The Dolphins certainly need them both. But not as much now as they will later in the season.
None of the first six quarterbacks of the season the Dolphins face this year has a career passer rating higher than 80 — which is pretty much the floor for a functional NFL quarterback.
So yes, the Dolphins will ease their way into the season, beginning Sunday in Washington. The Redskins have clearly moved on from the Robert Griffin III experiment, naming career backup Kirk Cousins the starter.
Cousins played well this preseason — completing 40 of 53 passes with a 103.9 passer rating — but probably is on the field only because Griffin has fallen so far out of favor with the Redskins’ decision-makers.
Cousins, speaking with Miami reporters via conference call Wednesday, joked that it was hard to keep all the McCains straight (the Dolphins have three on defense — Brice, Chris and Bobby).
“We expect to see good players at every position on Sunday,” Cousins added.
Whom exactly Cousins will see in the defensive backfield — and where — is still a bit of a mystery.
He’s a burner, I’m a burner. I can run too. I’m not afraid of anything.
on facing speedy Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson on Sunday
The assumption is when the Dolphins go to their nickel-coverage package, Taylor will line up on the boundary, and McCain, one of the best slot corners in football, will slide inside.
But neither Dolphins corner would commit to that plan yet. Taylor’s top concern right now is to get healthy. He’s still working his way back from a quadriceps strain that cost him the last two games of the preseason — and perhaps the starting job.
“I know what I can do; I know what I’ve put on film,” Taylor said. “I know that, if I wasn’t injured, it would probably be a different way. Not really worried about it. I’m just worried about getting healthy, trying to help out this team.
“If it’s the nickel role, it’s the nickel role. If it’s the starter role, it’s the starter role. My job is to go out there and cover receivers, put good stuff on tape, as I’ve always done.”
Instead, the job — at least this week — belongs to McCain, a seventh-year veteran who signed with Miami in the offseason.
On Sunday, he’ll be paired with Brent Grimes in the base defense. Grimes’ take on McCain: “I’ve seen what he can do, not only here but previous in his career, and I’m confident.”
Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said the decision to go with McCain over a Taylor was based on “a little bit of everything,” but did call it a “starting point.”
Philbin should get a good sense of how McCain will hold up for 60-some-odd plays Sunday, even if Cousins doesn’t actually test him. Miami’s pass rush should give Cousins fits, but receivers will still run their routes.
It’s a near certainty that, at least at some point, he’ll match up with DeSean Jackson, the most dynamic playmaker on the team. Jackson has 4.35-second 40 speed, and will surely try the Dolphins deep Sunday.
“He’s a burner, I’m a burner,” McCain said. “I can run too. I’m not afraid of anything.”