Dion Jordan, the only name more controversial among South Florida sports fans than Ryan Tannehill or Hassan Whiteside. Jordan’s name is often followed by ‘huge potential’, ‘disappointment’, ‘bust’ or more recently ‘suspended.’
Dion Jordan’s NFL career has been colourful since the Dolphins traded up to take him with the number 3 pick overall in 2013. The Dolphins leapfrogged other teams in order to pick the ‘athletic freak’ that Jordan was frequently referred to as over other Defensive and Offensive standouts in the Draft. However, Jordan’s time in Miami has been marred by suspensions and the player has never lived up to his billing as a game-changing talent who was going to help the Dolphins go after Tom Brady and his New England team that has reigned supreme over the past decade in the AFC East.
Alternate Universe for Dolphins fans
Dion Jordan is often held up as the ultimate failing of the Jeff Ireland/ Joe Philbin era that can be summarised as lacklustre and mediocre. The decision to trade the no.12 and no.42 picks to Oakland for their no.3 is something that has haunted many Dolphins fans over the past three seasons. At no.12 the Dolphins could have bagged DE Sheldon Richardson (billed a DT out of college), S Eric Reid, TE Tyler Eifert or gone WR with DeAndre Hopkins as Tavon Austin fell to the Rams at no.8.
The Dolphins at no.42 could have then gone either Defense with DT Kawann Short, CB Tyrann Mathieu (who was a polarizing prospect after being booted off his LSU team for drug use) or LB’er with Kiko Alonso (currently a Dolphin) or Jamie Collins. The Dolphins could have also brought in some help to complement second-year back Lamar Miller by drafting either Le’Veon Bell or Eddie Lacy. It is these types of alternate scenarios that have left many in South Florida head scratching and in some instances soul searching as to why the Franchise drafted a player who was a ‘tweener’ and a ‘hybrid’ and who many draft experts were unsure as to whether he could add weight to play DE or learn to play OLB.
However, if Jordan had gone on to become the player he was widely expected to be, then Dolphins fans would have hailed the boldness and aggressive nature of the front office in going up and grabbing a game changing talent with both a rare combination of height, speed and explosiveness. Following Jordan’s conditional reinstatement earlier today, it is clear that this new chapter in the former Oregon mans career can go either one of two ways. Along the same collision course it has currently been heading down and end with Jordan walking away from football, or he becomes a role model for others proving that people deserve second chances, and becomes an impactful member of an imposing Dolphins Front Seven.
Positives for Dolphins fans
The overwhelming positive for many Dolphins fan is that Dion Jordan has not even scratched the surface of his potential as a football player. He lit up the 2013 combine and then lit up the NFL draft and is a player who possesses long arms and a rare mixture of length with speed and explosiveness. Coming out of College many scouts were unsure whether or not Jordan could put on the necessary muscle and weight to transition into a Calais Campbell type Defensive End or whether he could learn the position of an Outside Line-backer. However, Jordan’s skill-set is more suited to the position of an OLB in a 3-4 system or potentially a Strong side backer in the Dolphins 4-3 base Defense.
The most obvious positive for Dolphins fans is that they are getting back a potentially game-changing talent who if he lives up to his billing coming out of Oregon could add to the pass-rushing talents of Veterans Cameron Wake, Mario Williams and Ndamukong Suh. New Dolphins Defensive Co-ordinators, Vance Joseph’s, favourite word at the minute is ‘aggressive’ as he repeatedly talks of letting his players cut it loose and go hunt. Dolphin’s fans will be licking their chops with the thought of Ndamukong Suh swallowing up double-teams with Wake and Williams going to work of the edge with either a blitzing Kiko Alonso or Dion Jordan jumping through gaps. However, this would have been a truly dominant Front Seven at the start of the 2014 season, yet now Wake, Williams and Suh are seasoned veterans while Alonso has failed to recapture his form he found as a rookie in Buffalo. The hope for Jordan is that he can put the past three seasons behind him and if he lines up alongside Alonso, someone who he played together with at Oregon and who has been a vocal supporter in recent months, then it is hoped that Jordan can prove why he was taken no.3 overall.
Jordan has raw talent and a rare combination of size, speed and strength, however, he is not a natural pass rusher and does not turn the corner as fluidly as someone like Cameron Wake. Dolphins staff will hope that with some work, Jordan could use his long arms and quick hands with his quick first step to beat Defenders with either a swim move, spin or just flat out blow by defenders with his speed. Watch this clip from College where Jordan from a standing stance does not even put a move on the Tackle and just blows straight past him his explosive first step and uses his long arms to get under the Tackle.
However, if Jordan is to fit into this Miami Dolphins Defense, then it will most likely be as the SAM Linebacker, something that will involve him setting the edge and stopping the opposing teams running attack. Jordan proved he has this ability in this play here from his time in College.
While it is clear that the Dolphins could easily use Jordan’s athleticism in pass rushing situations on third and long, it is his extreme versatility and ability to undertake a number of assignments along the Front Seven that could ultimately win him a starting gig in Miami.
The NFL at its simplest form is a game of mismatches. How can one team exploit either a weakness in the other team or gain an advantage in a certain area in order to score more points than the opposing team. This is the NFL at its most basic and it is something that over the years has seen the introduction of new systems such as the spread offence, west coast offence, 46 Defense and the decline from prominence of positions such as the Full-back and more recently the Running-back. However, in recent years the NFL has witnessed the emergence of a new pass catching Tight End. The normal job of a TE as an extra blocker has now been shifted to having over-sized Wide Receivers lining up and running routes against less mobile Line-backers. The Dolphins know all about this facing the New England Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski over the past few seasons who every team in the NFL has had struggle lining up against.
In Dion Jordan the Dolphins have an extremely unique talent in that he proved himself not only in coverage, but also during his brief stint in the NFL as a player who is able to run shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the biggest mismatches in the NFL. Jordan’s billed height of 6 foot 6 and weight of 275lb is nearly identical to Gronkowski’s 6 foot 6, 265lb frame. Watch this clip from college where not only does Jordan jam the receiver at the line of scrimmage, but he also managed to stay with him shoulder-to-shoulder throughout the progression of the route.
With the exit of Olivier Vernon to the New York Giants this past offseason, many in Miami will be hoping that Dion Jordan can bring his youth and raw talent to the Dolphins pass-rush attack. They will also be hoping that he can still use his high motor and mobility in space to blanket opposing Tight Ends down the field, something that Strong Safety Reshad Jones has been tasked with recently. However, the player has a history with substance abuse and therefore the recent conditional reinstatement which according to NFL Insider Ian Rappoport comes with a lot of conditions, could be the same-old same-old from a player who so far as proved a huge disappointment in Miami.
The negative side of Jordan’s reinstatement and training camp spot
Can fans of the Dolphins have their hopes crushed any more than they have over the previous few seasons as the team regularly ‘wins’ the off-season yet fails when it comes to the regular season. While Dion Jordan has been reinstated, there is no guessing whether or not he will make the final 53 man roster and many fans may question whether he actually deserves a chance to compete for a space instead of allowing an undrafted rookie to come in and prove himself. Despite missing all of 2015 and four games in 2014, Jordan has played in 26 career games and registered just 46 tackles and three sacks whilst earning only one start. The player has a repeated history with substance abuse as he was banned for the first four games in the 2014 season, then handed a further two game suspension. Finally he was suspended the entire 2015 season and many questioned whether or not Jordan was ready to walk away from the game of Football altogether.
While there are many upsides to Dion Jordan in terms of his athleticism and skill-set, it simply comes down to the man himself. Has Dion Jordan learned from past mistakes and will he change as a person going forward. After being handed three-previous suspensions, should the Dolphins be handing this incredibly talented player a fourth chance or should the Jordan experiment have a line permanently drawn under it and instead offer the opportunity to fight for a roster spot to a hungry undrafted rookie or bring in a veteran player?
Dolphins fans will hope that veterans Ndamukong Suh, Cameron Wake, Mario Williams or Koa Misi could put an arm round Jordan and guide him as he takes his first steps back from NFL purgatory and will hope to become a contributing member of the Dolphins Defense. There is no questioning Dion Jordan athleticism and skill-set, however, he has not suited up since 28th December 2014. With veteran players in the Dolphins meeting room, a new Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph and one of Jordan’s old college teammates Kiko Alonso lining up next to him, many Dolphins fans will hope that they will see that same player lining up in 2016 that they were promised when the Dolphins moved up and drafted Jordan third overall in 2013. Will the Dolphins add a potentially premier-pass rusher and versatile lock-down coverage Line-backer, or will this be the end for Dion Jordan as a football player and mark it down as another example where scouting only goes so far and at some point you have to decide whether the man himself is ready to suit up in the National Football League.
– Thomas Like, 30th July