Dion Jordan has a great opportunity to rewrite the NFL record books as a rookie for the Miami Dolphins in 2013. If used properly, the third overall pick has a chance to break the all-time rookie sack record.
The mark stands at 14.5 sacks and was set by Jevon Kearse in 1999. The Titans defensive end dominated quarterbacks in his first season, and his record has rarely been seriously challenged. Aldon Smith came closest to breaking the mark in 2011, posting 14 sacks in his debut season with the 49ers.
Predicting Jordan's ability to break that mark may seem like a bold statement. After all, the newest Miami Dolphin only tallied five sacks during his final year at Oregon.
His hybrid skills also make it seem as though he is not a natural pass-rusher, but Jordan wasn't always allowed to dedicate himself to pass rushing in Oregon's multiple scheme. Still, he was still the most skilled pass-rusher in this draft class. Imagine what the former tight end could do if the Dolphins turn him loose.
Jordan is entering a defense with the right scheme and personnel to help him flourish. The first thing Miami defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle must do is focus on letting Jordan rush the passer.
Any time a player offers the versatility Jordan does, it's tempting to use him in multiple ways, but the Dolphins don't want a jack of all trades and master of none. Yes, he can drop back and cover and chase down runners in space. However, Jordan is at his best when allowed to simply attack the edge.
The first of his two sacks against Arizona State shows Jordan's ability to collapse the edge.
Notice how he uses speed to beat his blocker to the corner. Then he uses his hands well to defeat the tackle and close on the pocket.
The real key to the play is how Jordan manages to dip his 6'6" frame underneath his blocker. For a player so tall to achieve that kind of leverage shows remarkable range and agility.
That combination of movement skills, hands technique and pure speed defines top-notch pass-rushers. It's a potent mix that translates well to every level of football.
Later in the same game, Jordan showed off the same combination from the other side of the formation.
His initial takeoff speed simply overwhelms his blocker. Yet, the key is the use of hands. Jordan rips underneath with his inside arm and dips his outside shoulder to get around the tackle.
Technique wins, especially in pass rushing. Jordan has near-flawless rush technique. Combine that with his 4.60 speed, and NFL offensive tackles should be very afraid.
However, those physical and mental attributes alone won't be enough to allow Jordan to challenge the record set by Kearse. What could tip things in his favor is the supporting cast the Dolphins boast.
Jordan will certainly benefit from rushing on a line also featuring premier rush end Cameron Wake. The ex-CFL star has quickly blossomed into arguably the most dominant pass-rusher in football. He demands attention and often draws double-teams, and that will create plenty of one-on-one rush opportunities for Jordan to exploit.
Offensive lines will also slide their protections toward Wake, given his 43 sacks in the last four seasons. Any time that happens, Jordan will have a favorable angle to attack the edge with his speed.
Wake will also be an invaluable tutor to Jordan. Like the rookie, he is blessed with the physical skills of a natural pass-rusher.
However, Wake is also an intelligent technician. He can help Jordan not only master the basics but also expand his repertoire of pass-rush moves.
Other than the attention paid to Wake on the other side, Jordan will certainly benefit from the Dolphins' ability to dominate in the middle. Miami's defensive line features a powerful interior tandem in tackles Randy Starks and Paul Soliai. Both are tough to block one-on-one and create plenty of push inside.
All edge-rushers succeed thanks to pressure in the middle. With Starks, Soliai and even Jared Odrick occupying the interior of offensive lines, Jordan should create havoc on the outside.
The Dolphins have the right pieces upfront to help Jordan quickly dominate as a pro pass-rusher. That's why it's important for Coyle to let him focus on doing just that.
As an outside linebacker in college, his standup skills were most obvious. However, Jordan can create as many problems from a three-point stance.
This play against Fresno State shows Jordan's pass-rush prowess from a more traditional alignment.
Again, he fires off the line at the snap, even with his hand down. He's also able to utilize an impressive bend and dip under the arms of his blocker.
That fluidity and quickness from his stance will serve Jordan well in the Dolphins' 4-3 base schemes. However, the Dolphins can't ignore Jordan's versatility.
Some reports even suggest they could use him in multiple roles. An article in The Miami Herald quotes general manager Jeff Ireland discussing using Jordan at outside linebacker:
Could be. That’s what I like about him. He’s very versatile and he played linebacker there and he also rushed the passer.
[When] we get our hands on him, [we will] see where the best place he’ll fit. We’ve got a great vision for him. Part of that’s going to be rushing the passer but the other part’s up to [coach Joe Philbin].
That won't limit Jordan's chances of rewriting the rookie sack record. In fact, it might even increase them. Being ostensibly listed as a 4-3 outside linebacker hasn't stopped Von Miller from becoming the best pass-rusher for the Denver Broncos.
Jordan will have more rush opportunities from base and nickel sets, and however they use Jordan, the Dolphins must turn him loose as a pass-rusher.
When Kearse entered the league, he was quickly dubbed "The Freak" because of his dynamic mix of height and speed. Standing 6'6" and possessing 4.60 speed, Jordan is a similarly dynamic force offensive tackles will struggle to handle.
He is entering a powerful front seven that will take blocks away from him. He will also be coached by a coordinator who can concoct a variety of rush schemes to send him after quarterbacks.
It's the perfect environment for Jordan to make a real run at breaking the NFL's rookie sack record.