DAVIE, Fla. -- If there was an offseason award for most improved player with the Miami Dolphins, second-year linebacker Chris McCain would be a front-runner. No player has improved his standing more with the team than McCain compared to a year ago.
McCain came to the Dolphins in the spring of 2014 as an undrafted free agent with long odds of making the team. But McCain flashed early and often in training camp and earned a spot on Miami's 53-man roster. He got most of his rookie reps on special teams, highlighted by a blocked punt against the New England Patriots.
Fast forward to Year 2 where McCain enters training camp as the favorite to start at outside linebacker. McCain got most of the first-team reps in organized team activities and minicamp and fit in well with the starting unit.
“It definitely builds my confidence,” McCain said earlier this week. “But I can’t get too complacent. We got [Spencer] Paysinger, [Kelvin] Sheppard, they're right there behind me. Not even that, every practice is still an evaluation.”
Linebackers Koa Misi and Jelani Jenkins, last year’s leading tackler, return as starters. But the Dolphins traded Dannell Ellerbe to the New Orleans Saints and cut Philip Wheeler this offseason, which left a hole at outside linebacker. McCain brings athleticism and pass-rush ability to the group. He also moonlights as a defensive end on third downs and obvious passing situations.
“Chris is doing a very good job,” Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said. “I like his attitude that he’s brought to the field. There’s a lot of football between now and Sept. 13.”
McCain must continue to earn the trust of Miami’s coaching staff as a former undrafted rookie. A starting outside linebacker in Miami's defense carries a lot of responsibility, and the Dolphins are projecting McCain to make a sizable jump from Year 1 to Year 2.
McCain admits his head was spinning as a rookie at times, but he is working to correct those first-year mistakes.
“I definitely should’ve studied more,” McCain said. “I kind of thought some concepts were the same from college and things like that. Then, when you start seeing different offenses, coming from the Pac-12 to the NFL is totally different.”