It's been impossible to miss Chris McCain on the practice field this offseason.
After all, how do you miss a 6-5, 236-pounder who along with Joey Bosa is the tallest player on the Bolts' defense?
After joining the Chargers' practice squad last season, McCain is looking to carve out a meaningful role under Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley. The former Cal standout has actually appeared in 20 NFL games for the Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints since entering the league in 2014 as an undrafted free agent, logging a pair of sacks in limited snaps.
However, he firmly believes Bradley's system affords him his first real chance to establish himself as a force in the NFL. McCain entered the offseason feeling primed to succeed at the LEO position. His first two weeks of OTAs have only reinforced that notion.
"As the speed end, I can play a little more freely on the open side," he said. "I can show a little more of what I can do with my speed. The LEO is a good fit for me with my body type and what I'm good at. I think it helps me show what I bring to the table for the coaches. (That's) a lot of aggression. I hustle every play. No matter how tired I get. I play aggressively full speed and all out. I love to get after it, and I can do that at the LEO."
He also notes his unique frame suits the new position.
"I've got long limbs, but I'm also pretty fast. I can threaten from the end with my speed, but also get you off-balance and come inside. I know I'm a real long, lanky guy, but I use that to get pressure and affect the quarterback. With the snaps I'm getting, I think I'm showing up on film a lot. I get good and bad feedback. Even when you do well you can always improve and do better, but I'm feeling comfortable. I believe I'm taking full advantage this offseason."
McCain knew he'd have a chance after conversations with former teammate and close friend Andre Branch, who played under Bradley for three seasons in Jacksonville.
"I never studied Gus' defense, and the defenses I was a part of were completely different. But his defense is very good. I played with a guy he coached in Jacksonville in Andre, and he is my body size. He did really (well) at the LEO position. He was always in a good spot and I loved how he did things. And I watched him before I even knew Gus was going to be here! Now that Gus is here, I see how Gus likes aggressive, big guys with speed. That's me. So, I think this fits what I can do."
It's important to note that Bradley isn't the only coach McCain is lauding this offseason. He's worked closely with Defensive Line Coach Giff Smith, who he vows has taken his game to new heights.
"I just love being around Coach Giff. I am trying my best not to let him down. He lets me play my game. He's made me better technician. I really just love being around him. He is perfect for someone like me."
Joey Bosa knows the value Smith brings to a young defensive lineman like McCain. The 21-year old credits his position coach for getting the most out of him in 2016, which ended in Bosa capturing Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
"Luckily, I had an amazing coach in college to set me up for the NFL, but you can't really ask for a better coach than Giff. Schematically, he really knows defense. We work hand-in-hand and together well to take everybody to the next level when it comes to hand usage and pass rush moves. It's cool being at a high level like this to work alongside Giff. He gives me ideas, but he is open to ideas I give him. It's certainly been nice, and it's why he does a good job with young players like Chris."