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Cowboys vs Dolphins: Dion Jordan Shows Strengths, Weaknesses in Preseason Opener

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Cowboys vs Dolphins: Dion Jordan Shows Strengths, Weaknesses in Preseason Opener
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

If defensive end Dion Jordan performs all season like he performed in limited action on Sunday night, trading up to the third overall pick could prove to be a very fruitful investment for the Miami Dolphins.

We had an idea of what to expect from Jordan from an early stage; defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle didn't make much of a secret about it, telling the media that Jordan would be lining up at defensive end. In the same breath, though, he couldn't help but acknowledge Jordan's versatility:

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.

Jordan put his pass-rushing potency on display in the Hall of Fame Game between the Dallas Cowboys and Dolphins, registering three pressures of the quarterback in the first half, including one pressure that led to a sack by defensive end Derrick Shelby. The 2013 draft's third overall pick put his elite athleticism on display, juking his way around offensive tackles on his way to the quarterback.

That type of move is what the Dolphins weren't getting out of Jared Odrick at defensive end and what they were hoping to get out of Jordan by drafting him.

On 1st-and-10 near the end of the first quarter, offensive tackle Darrion Weems had no choice but to take a penalty for illegal hands to the face in pass protection against Jordan.

He put his versatility on display, as well, three plays later. On 3rd-and-15, Jordan started out lined up with his hand on the ground as a defensive tackle in a four-man line but motioned to the linebacker spot before the snap and dropped into coverage. The Cowboys ran a draw play, but Jordan was in the right spot to trip up the running back before he picked up the first down.

It seemed Jordan was on the field for every third down, and he played a majority of the defensive snaps in the second quarter.

It wasn't a perfect night for Jordan, though. He has all the size in the world, but he lost leverage on one running play to his side; he'll improve with experience. He put his speed moves on display but didn't fare as well when it was a matchup of strength. Jordan put on close to 30 pounds of muscle this offseason, and he still has to learn how to use it. 

The Dolphins defense, as a whole, struggled against the run, but it wasn't always a result of Jordan's inability to hold the point of attack. There were times, however, where he simply overpursued into the backfield on a running play, losing his lane integrity in the process.

Those are mistakes that are to be expected of a rookie, especially one who was brought in to rush the passer like Jordan.

He is going through a big change, from being an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, playing all over the defense and working mostly out of a two-point stance, to now putting on close to 30 pounds of muscle to line up with his hand in the ground consistently as a defensive end, charged with holding the point of attack against the run and putting pressure on the quarterback on passing downs.

On Sunday night, though, he showed that he has the foundation of a bright future in the NFL as a pass-rushing force. He has all the tools to improve in the other areas, and if he continues to hone his craft, he'll have a nice career regardless of his exact role.

 

Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand or via team press releases.

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