Miami Dolphins safety T.J. McDonald is encouraged knowing they will get DB’s McCain and Jones back in the future.
Bobby McCain literally had insult added to his injury.
McCain hurt his knee against the Patriots in Week 4 seriously enough to keep him out of the next two games.
But as he walked off the Gillette Stadium field with the help of trainers, he was met by a chorus of boos, a cynical audience on social media and an irate Bill Belichick.
The reason? Suspicion he was faking the injury to stop the clock as the Patriots were employing a bit of fourth-down subterfuge. The Pats looked like they were going for it, and then quickly ran on their punt team. As they made the switch, McCain fell to the ground, stopping the clock.
“That’s f------ bull----,” Belichick appeared to say.
What Belichick didn’t know at the time: McCain was really hurt. And a bit miffed.
“Yeah, I heard him on the sideline,” McCain said Thursday.
What did he say?
“I don’t know,” he said.
Forgive McCain if he didn’t want to go to war with the era’s greatest coach.
But he insists that he would never fake an injury, regardless of the situation.
“Nah. No way.”
Here’s something McCain’s not faking about:
He feels much better and is on track to play Sunday against the Lions.
“I’m feeling good,” McCain said. “I’m feeling real good. ... I feel great and ready to go.”
That’s a huge boon to a defensive backfield that has been hanging in there with a bit of smoke and mirrors this season. McCain missed two games. Reshad Jones did the same with a shoulder issue.
And as a result, the Dolphins’ secondary has surrendered 806 passing yards the past three weeks.
Things got so sideways against the Bears in the second half that Dolphins coordinator Matt Burke pulled Torry McTyer, who started in place of McCain, for Cordrea Tankersley, who had fallen out of favor since training camp.
“We had some things going on,” Burke said, when asked to explain McTyer’s benching. “We felt like it was time for a different look. They were going at Torry a little bit. Torry’s battling. We felt like it was time to put something else out there.”
Tankersley has come a long way from the second preseason game, when he, in his own words, played like “straight trash.”
Not so on Sunday against the Bears.
“I did pretty good, held my own,” Tankersley said.
Still, neither he nor McTyer is close to the player McCain is, both in performance and in intensity. So the Dolphins’ defense will be better Sunday, assuming McCain plays.
“He brings a lot of other things to the table,” Burke said of McCain. “He’s one of our problem solvers. He helps elevate the game around him.”
McCain’s return could not come at a better time.
The Lions have one of the league’s premier slot receivers in Golden Tate, and McCain will surely be asked to cover him at times, if not a bunch. Minkah Fitzpatrick will also see him plenty.
Tate has 33 catches for 431 yards and three touchdowns this season. All three stats are best on the team.
“He’ll be good,” McCain said. “It’ll be a good one. At the end of the day, we don’t back down from anyone.”
There’s a good chance Xavien Howard will draw Kenny Golladay, who at 6-4 is the Lions’ most physical receiver. Marvin Jones will be a handful, too.
“It’s a unique challenge,” McCain said. “They get the ball spread around to them a lot between 11, 19 and 15. They’ve got some good players, Golladay, Jones and Tate. All three of those guys are good receivers and they’ve been doing well for their team. They’re coming in here and at the end of the day, we’re trying to shut them down. We know they’re fast. They’re big, tall guys. We know that they’re on a roll right now. They’re on coming off a bye so they’re feeling pretty good. We’re going to play our game and control what we can control.”