Bill Parcells when discussing the evaluation of young players once famously said, "If they don't bite when they're puppies, they usually won't bite."
And while that cannot apply to every NFL rookie, it definitely seems to apply to Miami Dolphins defensive back Bobby McCain.
McCain, you see, is the pup who chewed up 95 snaps in a 96-snap game against the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday. This year he's played outside at cornerback. He's played in the slot. He played safety two snaps against the Eagles.
He has come out of the draft's third day, in the fifth round, and progressively improved and proved himself valuable enough that the Dolphins earlier this season traded away cornerback talent knowing McCain was on the roster.
“Bobby is a confident guy which, let's list corner qualifications right? Confident may not be No. 1, but it’s going to be in the top three and he’s a confident guy who’s not afraid of the big moment," interim defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said. "All those reps he got, and it started kind of at New England, I think he’s gotten better every week. Our confidence level has grown with him so, however it shakes out, the kid got about 90-something snaps the other day which is almost two games for a nickel corner, but the more the merrier for a guy like that.
"Again he’s a young kid who wants to do well and the confidence level is growing on both sides. His confidence and our confidence in him.”
McCain isn't ready to take over a starting job maybe just yet. Maybe he's vying for the slot cornerback job before season's end. But don't tell him he cannot do it, like, now.
Indeed, don't bring up any of the obvious reasons he shouldn't be a big deal right now.
Only a rookie?
"That to me doesn't matter," McCain said. "Young, old, tall, short, big, if I have to take that down block by a guard, I'll compete to win. If I have to compete for that fade ball, I want the ball."
But you're only 5-10 ...
"I don't really see that," McCain said. "I don't believe that I have to play like I'm 6-2. No, I have to play like I'm 5-10 and be an animal, be all over the place."
But you're only a fifth round draft pick ...
"True, that," McCain said. "I am a fifth-round draft pick but I feel I can play with the best of them, first-round, seventh-, free agent, I don't see names, I just line up in front of the guy and I cover him."
McCain has three passes defensed so far this season while playing time that was limited up until three weeks ago. He's mostly been a special teams stalwart. But he has bigger plans.
"I definitely view myself as a playmaker," he said. "When the ball is in the air, in my heart I feel there's no such thing as a 50-50 ball. It's just as much mine as it is yours and if you make a play, I'm going to come back and get the next one. I view myself as a guy that goes and gets the football, not just is there to get a PBU or something like that. I want the ball in my hands and make big plays."
McCain made plays at Memphis. He had 11 interceptions his last two years there.
And his attention, competitiveness and attitude suggests it might not be long before he begins making bigger plays for the Dolphins.
"I feel at home in the league, going out every week and performing," McCain said. "You have to do the job and I believe I can do that.
"Whether I'm in the game at nickel or corner or special teams, I just want to contribute. The more experience you have in the game, the better you should feel. I feel I can play with the best of them and now I have to keep moving forward."