Dolphins playing slot-CB McCain on Boundary Raises Questions

The Miami Dolphins feel really confident playing Bobby McCain opposite their number one boundary cornerback Xavien Howard.

The team made this switch a few weeks ago after fellow cornerbacks Tony Lippett, Cordrea Tankersley, and  Torry McTyer were determined to not fit the bill due to inconsistent play.

And yes, Bobby McCain has done a solid job in practice and in the preseason games playing on the boundary after this switch was made.

However, there is an underlying concern with putting Bobby McCain on the outside as a boundary cornerback. And that concern dwells from the fact that that’s not how McCain earned his money over the course of his career. That’s not how he earned his 4-year extension back in June. Not to mention, McCain has had limited time playing on the outside since entering the league in 2015.

McCain earned his extension by playing as a nickel cornerback, and that’s why the Dolphins made him the highest-paid slot cornerback in the NFL at the time.

McCain’s versatility to occasionally play on the boundary also played a factor in keeping him with the Dolphins for the future, but it does not make him a prototypical full-time boundary cornerback that can be trusted to cover receivers throughout the course of an entire season. The Dolphins are hoping McCain can fit that duty, but he’s unproven in that area.

And here’s another take:

Are the Dolphins really going to play  one of the NFL’s top-paid and better-performing slot-CB’s on the boundary instead of at his ideal position?

Remember the notable 2016 performance linebacker Kiko Alonso had that earned him his extension the following offseason?

Alonso was playing as the team’s middle linebacker that year, but his lack of ideal size combined with his athletic traits made the Dolphins feel he would be better suited as the team’s outside linebacker on the weakside. And that theory made sense to us football fans. There was logic to it.

So after signing Alonso to the extension, the team switched his position without ever really knowing Alonso could actually perform at his new spot. And halfway through a 2017 season, Alonso’s coverage ability became a major concern, and that concern is still discussed today as the team nears it’s 2018 season.

What if the team learns that McCain is not suited for his new position as a boundary cornerback once a few regular season games get under his belt? Would they put Tankersley or Lippett back to the outside and move McCain back to slot? And what does this say about a cornerback like Cordrea Tankersley in whom the Dolphins invested a 3rd round pick and is only entering his 2nd season?

McCain’s situation is somewhat different compared the Kiko Alonso situation in that the Dolphins don’t exactly see McCain as their future boundary cornerback opposite Howard, but more of a temporary piece that can hold down the fort for the better part of the 2018 season. This situation could also allow the Dolphins 2018 1st-round pick Minkah Fitzpatrick to get an opportunity to step onto the field.

Fitzpatrick is another versatile player that has demonstrated his ability to play both safety and cornerback this offseason. The Dolphins have tried him as a nickel CB in certain packages. Hopefully, for the Dolphins sake, Fitzpatrick can step up if called upon in this role.

And if Fitzpatrick is not perceived to be the next man in the slot, then which of the cornerbacks (in whom the Dolphins did not originally see fit to start on the outside) can be trusted to play as the team’s nickel?

And what if Bobby McCain plays well as the team’s CB-2? Do the Dolphins keep him there?

If so, he’d become a bargain at his future price tag of $6.75 million per season starting in 2019.

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