Benardrick McKinney took part in his first practice in pads Tuesday since last October and to say it was a rousing success for the inside linebacker would not be an exaggeration.
In one shot, McKinney proved to himself he's completely over the shoulder injury that cut short his 2020 season with the Houston Texans and in another he provided a glimpse of what he could do for the Miami Dolphins defense in 2021.
With the pads coming on for the first in camp Tuesday, there was an emphasis on the running game in 11-on-11 drills and McKinney stood out as the most dominant player on this day.
He routinely was around the ball and found himself in the offensive backfield on a couple of occasions.
This has been McKinney's calling card since he entered the NFL as a second-round pick out of Mississippi State in the 2015 draft and what got him to the Pro Bowl at the conclusion of the 2018 season.
McKinney likely will start alongside Jerome Baker in the Dolphins defense, regardless of whether the Dolphins have three or four linebackers on the field. That was the expectation after Miami acquired McKinney from Houston in the offseason for edge defender Shaq Lawson in a trade that involved a swap of late-round picks favoring the Texans.
This is somewhat of a prove-it season for McKinney after the shoulder injury, and maybe that became more evident when the Dolphins restructured his contract — a polite way of saying they forced him to take a pay cut and eliminate the final two years from the extension he signed in 2018 or risk getting cut with no guaranteed money left on the deal.
The first practice in pads certainly was a step in the right direction, with McKinney showing he's more than willing to throw his big frame (6-4, 257) into the fray.
The Dolphins are looking to improve their run defense in 2021, and they'll need contributions from all over the roster to get that done. McKinney, without question, should be front and center, in that quest.
Yes, it was only one practice, but the Dolphins and their fans had to be thrilled by what they saw from McKinney on Tuesday.