Miami Dolphins

Studies paying for Dolphins’ Chris McCain

Second-year linebacker Chris McCain, an undrafted rookie out of California who might be a starter, is devoting more time to mastering the defense.
Second-year linebacker Chris McCain, an undrafted rookie out of California who might be a starter, is devoting more time to mastering the defense. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Things you might not know about Dolphins’ second-year linebacker Chris McCain:

▪ He might be the starting outside linebacker this season after limited snaps last season as an undrafted rookie out of California.

▪ He isn’t just interactive and vocal on social media, where he took a shot at Super Bowl champion New England after the ball deflation controversy.

“I’ve got an open personality. I love interacting with people,” said McCain, 6-5, 250. “Some people might not believe that looking at me, but I’m a people person. I like talking to people. I like making people feel comfortable, regardless of what it is. I don’t break barriers until it’s starting to get more serious than it should, then I cut some people off.”

Although many athletes keep fans at stiff arm’s length, McCain has hung out with fans he has met.

“Growing up, I struggled with my attitude,” he explained. “But I’ve also struggled in my head with people that I had in my head that I couldn’t trust. But everybody’s not the same. I’ll always give a person a chance until they mess up. I’m not going to mess up first.”

He recalls people who didn’t believe in him, such as a high school coach who, McCain says, told him he wouldn’t get past 10th grade despite McCain trying to get extra help with schoolwork.

The Dolphins certainly believe in McCain. They signed him last year as a rookie free agent after he got booted from Cal’s football team early in the 2013 season for “conduct detrimental to the team.”

In addition to physical talent, clearly McCain’s got some mental fortitude. Remember that high school coach’s doubts about McCain academically? At Cal, McCain lost a scholarship because of academic troubles, then earned it back by a strong summer classroom performance.

This season, he could occupy the spot on the defense reserved for Dion Jordan before Jordan’s season-long suspension.

“We’re giving him exposure a lot,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. “He’s been getting a lot of normal down-and-distance snaps, playing linebacker [in minicamps]. He’s gotten some linebacker snaps in third down. We don’t want to, for whatever reason, if an injury occurs or if he’s gotten pushed to some other spot, we don’t want it to be Chinese to him. So, we’re kind of throwing a lot at him and we’re going to refine his role based on how well he competes, how well he shows himself.”

Last season, McCain got into 10 games, mostly on special teams and saw precious few defensive snaps. That’s normal for an undrafted rookie who makes the roster but raised some eyebrows considering the linebacker troubles the Dolphins had.

“Last season, I believe I had the time I deserved. I didn’t have too many snaps, but I wasn’t really fine with the playbook like I should’ve been,” McCain said. “Coming in young, there’s a lot of things to try to understand coming from college. I just had to get my feet wet a little bit. They threw me in when they could. I believe I set myself up for this year, which I think is going to be a big year for all of us.”

He blames himself for not studying more, which is in line with how Philbin assessed him coming out of 2014.

“With a young player, you’re looking for progress. You’re looking for maybe a better understanding of the assignments and responsibilities within the defense, which should enable you to have better play speed,” Philbin said. “The big thing we’ve been talking to him about is play speed. And as a young player, with all those guys, is consistency and development. But that’s the one thing that we’ve stressed to him.”

Related stories from Miami Herald