Physical freak. Versatile. The missing piece.
Sunday night's Hall of Fame Game between the Dolphins and the Dallas Cowboys will offer our first glimpse into how the first and second of those reasons translate to his success in the NFL.
It will be a brief glimpse, considering the light workload for the first-team units in the first preseason game, but the coaching staff has gotten a good look at Jordan in training camp.
Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle likes what he has seen so far but called Jordan's ability to rush the passer "his strength":
In the early stages here as we’re beginning, that’s where we have him working, at the defensive end spot. He’s got a lot of position versatility. I see him much like Olivier Vernon, in the sense that there will be times where we can use him in a lot of different spots. He’s very athletic, he can cover, he can certainly rush the passer, which is his strength. We’ve just got to get him stronger, as he progresses, as that shoulder comes back around off the injury, and each and every day we’re working to do that, but he’s got a lot of position flexibility.
The Dolphins had one of the best pass-rushers in the league on their defense last year in defensive end Cameron Wake, but they were noticeably missing a presence opposite him on passing downs. Defensive end Jared Odrick was drafted for the 3-4 defense and could never be considered a true 4-3 defensive end for any purpose other than stopping the run.
@ErikFrenz 3 from DT in 4 man line, 1 from DE in 4 man line, 2 from DE in 3 man line.— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) July 31, 2013
Most of Odrick's sack production in 2012 came when lined up on the interior of the defensive line, as either a 3-4 end or a 4-3 defensive tackle. He has a valuable role in the defense, in that respect, but he's not a 4-3 defensive end.
That role is now Jordan's.
His height may be seen as a disadvantage at times, but as you can see in the highlights, he has natural ability to dip his shoulder as he bends the corner when taking on an offensive tackle.
The questions with Jordan are twofold:
- Can he translate his skills as a pass-rusher from a two-point stance, standing up in a 3-4 defense, to a three- or four-point stance with his hand on the ground in a 4-3 defense?
- Can he play at his new weight of 248 pounds after spending most of his college career playing at 230 pounds, and does that extra weight translate to him holding up better at the point of attack against bigger, stronger NFL tackles?
When we look back at Jordan's 2013 season, the answers to those two questions will be a large factor in determining his success or lack thereof.
That being said, the answer to the first may matter a little less if the Dolphins deploy Jordan in a variety of ways. He dropped into coverage from the linebacker spot and even as a cornerback at times, but if we're judging his role based on his strengths as a player, his primary objective should be to get into the backfield. It doesn't have to be strictly from the defensive end spot, though.
For starters, he can rush the passer as a down lineman, but that wasn't where he logged a majority of his sacks. On this sack against Arizona State, Jordan lined up as the end on a three-man line, with the defense's backs against the wall.
He charged straight at the snap, and the offensive tackle tried to engage him, but Jordan's length proved too much to bear.
He was able to shed the block and simultaneously log the sack—no small feat of man.
A look at some of his other sacks, however, reveals him primarily rushing in a two-point stance.
On this play, he put his quick burst on display and got upfield against the offensive tackle, who quickly engaged arms with the oncoming defender.
Jordan ripped the arms of the blocker away and made his way around the tackle to get the sack.
Many of Jordan's sacks in the highlight video above came from a two-point stance.
Thus, perhaps the Dolphins will become a bit more scheme-versatile to allow their new athletic weapon to use his myriad skills as a defender. Fellow B/R writer Thomas Galicia pointed out recently that Jordan could be used as a de facto defensive end, albeit in an upright position, on a five-man line:
Miami could [add] Jordan to the line in a standing position on the weak side next to Jared Odrick. With Cameron Wake coming from the strong side, Paul Soliai, Randy Starks and Odrick coming from the middle, the quarterback likely will be flushed toward Jordan, producing a likely sack, tipped pass or turnover for the rookie.
This would be one way to use his skills primarily in penetrating the backfield, while also allowing him to occasionally drop into coverage.
The Dolphins, like almost every team in the NFL, ran a mix of three- and four-man lines last year, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see a similar mix, if maybe even more balanced, in 2013.
A situation that takes advantage of Jordan's full complement of skills is what's best for both the Dolphins defense and for Jordan individually, but if Jordan is creating havoc in the backfield, as is expected, he'll be well worth the third overall pick in the draft.
Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all stats obtained from the Sports-Reference.com network and all quotes obtained firsthand or via team press releases.