You have the third overall pick in the draft involved in a positional battle at defensive end. Throughout training camp Dion Jordan has been tremendous, despite the fact that he primarily played linebacker in college. He has some flaws—but correctable flaws—that are slowly in the process of being fixed.
Yet he might not start—at least not during his first season—and he has nothing to do with that.
That's how great Olivier Vernon has been during training camp as Miami's second pass-rusher, so great that Armando Salguero wrote this about Vernon on Sunday:
Everyone assumes the left defensive end job belongs to Olivier Vernon. Well, yes, he's making it hard to think otherwise. He's practicing well and there's nothing about his play against Jacksonville (only game he's been in) that suggested regression.
Rookie Dion Jordan is being groomed for that spot. The team wants him pushing Vernon. The team wants him to be good enough to be a three-down player. If he doesn't win the job, well, that's life and he can be used as a passing-down specialist. But that decision has not been made yet.
So that job, like the others, is still open.
This wouldn't necessarily be the worst thing in the world. While Jordan has shown great progress in both games, he's not very reliable stopping the run. This was true in college, and it remains true right now.
However, Jordan's problem is in the process of being corrected by Miami's coaching staff, specifically defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers. Rodgers has a tremendous track record of developing defensive linemen going all the way back to his days with the Dallas Cowboys in the early 2000s, and the defensive line has been a perennial strength on the Dolphins since he came aboard in 2008.
I trust Rodgers to make Jordan a more well-rounded player, just as he was responsible for Cameron Wake becoming Cameron Wake and for Paul Soliai steadying himself into becoming a consistent performer. There's absolutely no need for Jordan to start right off the bat.
Instead, he will work as Miami's third down pass-rusher, at least for this year. He can still collect at least 5.5 sacks, still deflect a few passes and still lead quarterbacks into the arms of Cameron Wake.
But he doesn't have to start right away, and the progression of Olivier Vernon proves that. Vernon is more well-rounded and has had a tremendous offseason. Therefore he's the presumptive starter right now, and likely will start come Week 1 against Cleveland.
But from time to time, you might see them on the field together. Miami's biggest positive is their depth along the defensive line and at defensive end. That depth is not only on display with Vernon again Jordan, but in another position battle at the line where the second place finisher is likely to get plenty of snaps.