He proved to be a quick study, becoming adept at knocking receivers off their routes and watching his playing time steadily increase. McNary played just three snaps in his debut against the Titans, but he was on the field for 34 plays three weeks later at Kansas City.
The 6-foot, 251-pounder displayed natural instincts from his first day of training camp. And he used a tireless work ethic to catch up with his teammates. Once his knowledge of the defense was up to par, he was ready to contribute.
So much so that he was trusted to appear in both playoff games, making 11 combined tackles against the Chiefs and Patriots.
Fellow inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman — who played for three seasons in the Canadian Football League before becoming a starter in Indianapolis in 2012 — watched it all unfold with an experienced eye.
“He’s a guy that’s willing to do whatever it takes to get out there on the field,” Freeman said. “I know he was champing at the bit for a long time sitting on the sideline. I kinda know how that feels, just sitting there waiting on your opportunity. But whenever he could run out there, he would try to take full advantage of it.”
Now McNary’s taking full advantage of his offseason opportunity to improve.
He’s glad the coaching staff showed faith in him late last season, and he’s determined to prove it’s well-placed. To that end, he’s spending extra time in his playbook learning not only his specific duties on a given play but those of everyone around him.
That knowledge will allow him to think and react more quickly on the field and could lead to the next step in his development. In other words, McNary is moving forward once again.
“I think it’s even bigger the fact that I had gained some experience last year of playing and struggling,” he said. “That was like the crawl phase for me. That was really just like the introduction phase, and now I come back with some sort of foundation to build on.”