Alterraun Verner is a math whiz. He scored in the 90th percentile on the SAT and earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from UCLA.
But you don’t need to know calculus to count the seven inches that separate Verner and Tampa Bay receiver Mike Evans.
Verner, who has a real chance to start Sunday (assuming that’s when the game is played) against the Buccaneers, is just 5-foot-10.
The Buccaneers list Evans at 6-foot-5.
So yes, size will be a consideration when Dolphins coaches decide whom to start alongside Xavien Howard at cornerback in Miami’s 52nd season opener.
But it won’t necessarily be the determining factor.
Byron Maxwell is bigger. But Verner, over the past three weeks, has been better.
“We’re going to go through this week,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said of the ongoing competition Monday. “We’ll figure that out by the end of the week.”
If Verner wins the job, it won’t just cap a remarkable six weeks for the 28-year defender. It will be all the more compelling because of the opponent.
Verner spent the previous three seasons with the Buccaneers, having signed four-year, $26.5 million contract in 2014.
But the Buccaneers cut Verner back in February, saving $6.5 million against the cap.
“I wasn't surprised,” Verner said of Tampa Bay’s decision. “I felt, long story short, they were going in a different direction with me. And it's a business. I don't really have too many hard feelings against them. I'm probably going to say hello to everybody over there, the coaching staff and everything. At the end of the day, it's a business. They're going the way that they were going. I can't be mad. They didn't pull me along, drag me along like the could have. I'm not surprised. It's a business.”
He might have expected it. But that doesn’t mean Verner had to like it.
So absolutely, this week’s game has a little extra juice for him — as if you needed any help getting amped up for the first week of the season.
“I'm not going to sit here and lie and say it doesn't mean a little bit more to me,” Verner said. “... Both teams want to get a win, but it would definitely be a little special if we beat my former team.”
Verner has a bunch of friends still on the team, and keeps in contact with defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, ex-Dolphins corner Brent Grimes, and yes, Evans.
They had some great battles on the practice field over the three years they spent together in Tampa. Verner watched as Evans developed from a rookie into the league’s fourth-leading receiver in 2016. Evans finished in the top 10 last year in catches (96), receiving yards (1,321) and touchdowns (12).
“I had to go against [Evans] and Vincent Jackson all three years I was there,” Verner said. “I'm used to going against big guys. Mike Evans is a very, very talented guy. ... He's grown so much as a player. I'm used to it. That's why I'm not shy or afraid if I go against a bigger guy. Sometimes I like it more, because all they're going to try to be is more physical. I'm OK with that.”
Verner didn’t even have a job two months ago; he signed a one-year, prove-it contract with the Dolphins in late July.
And so far, he has proven it.
But the summer been little more than a practice test.
The real exams start in the fall.
“They let me be what I can do best,” Verner said his height disadvantage. “They're not going to put me in a situation where they feel like my height is going to put me at a disadvantage. They let me play the way the way I know how to play.”
He added: “I know what type of talent I have. I know what I can. I know I can contribute and help on any team. But I'm just happy that the Dolphins was the team that gave me the opportunity.”