The last time Raekwon McMillan was at Hard Rock Stadium, he said he could ‘barely walk straight’ off the field.
McMillan stepped back on that grass did what he had to wait 359 days to get another chance to do after a knee injury abruptly ended his rookie season.
McMillan, 22, finally lined up on defense at Hard Rock Stadium for the Miami Dolphins during Saturday’s team scrimmage.
“I’m just glad to be out here,” McMillan said. “I’m glad to be out here with this team and glad to be out and finally contribute.”
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McMillan, the Dolphins’ second-round pick a year ago out of Ohio State, has shown no ill-effects from undergoing surgery to repair a torn ACL he suffered on a punt coverage situation in Miami’s 2017 preseason opener before he could even take one defensive snap.
Although the real proving ground will begin when McMillan lines up in actual games for the Dolphins, just the chance to be back in a game-like situation was a big step forward.
“A year ago from today, I was named the starter,” McMillan said. “I was doing all this, doing all that. I had a big head but then I was humbled a week later. I’m just fortunate enough to be back in the same position and have a role with this defense.”
The Dolphins felt the loss of McMillan, who totaled 275 total tackles, six sacks, 10 pass breakups and one interception return for a touchdown during his three seasons at Ohio State, during a season in they finished 29th out of 32 teams in points allowed.
Dolphins coaches said McMillan so far in camp has looked every bit the part of what they were expecting before his setback a year ago.
“He is who we thought he was,” linebackers coach Frank Bush said earlier this week. “He’s doing all of the things we suspected. His legs have come around. His brain has always been good. He’s just consistently getting better.
“He has growing pains. He’s a redshirt rookie out here, so he has growing pains; but ultimately, we like what we see.”
The Dolphins are confident McMillan can get comfortable in more of a play-calling role on defense in spite of his lack of experience.
“I think we’re in a good place for us with what he does,” Bush said. “We’re trying to just make sure we keep it tight to where his mind doesn’t go out. Being a smart player, he’s not thinking about too much. We don’t want to slow him down. We want him to play fast. I think he’s doing a good job of making sure that group is good with the calls, there’s communication going on.”
All that remains is seeing what McMillan can do once the games begin Thursday when the Dolphins open the preseason against Tampa Bay at home.
“Everything else tells us that he’s exactly what we drafted him to be,” Dolphins head coach Adam Gase said recently in training camp. “Now it’s just going to be when we get to Sunday and preseason games, do what he’s been training to do.”