Yesterday, Miami Dolphins rookie defensive end Dion Jordan missed his second straight practice as he continues his recovery from offseason shoulder surgery. After practice, defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle was asked about the chances of Jordan, the third overall pick back in April, earning a starting position on the defense, replying, "At this point, he hasn't gotten the reps that would be necessary to be able to come out there and start at this point.
"We're obviously taking some precaution as we move forward with Dion, not wanting to overload him at this point," Coyle added. "We've got a plan in place that we think will get him ready to participate, at the level that we feel best at, as we begin the season. We'd like to see as much of him as we can, but we're going to be real careful on how we proceed."
In an era where first round draft picks are expected to be immediate impact players, especially when a team trades up to select that player, giving up a second round pick in the process, being "careful" in how you proceed and "not wanting to overload" your prized rookie immediately raises red flags. Did the Dolphins over spend on Jordan? Was selecting a player coming off a torn labrum, and the subsequent surgery to fix it, a misstep by the much maligned Jeff Ireland, Miami's General Manager?
Should Jordan be the starting defensive end opposite Cameron Wake this year?
No. No. And...wait for it...no.
The Dolphins absolutely did not over spend to get Jordan. The Philadelphia Eagles have all but admitted they were taking Jordan with the fourth overall pick. If Miami wanted him, they had to move up to the number three position. When the Raiders only wanted one of the Dolphins's two second round picks to fall back to the twelfth spot, Miami jumped at the deal. Jordan was graded on nearly every single draft board as the top defensive player in the draft, and was projected to be a top five pick from nearly every mock draft. But, when the Dolphins moved up into the top five to get him, suddenly it was a reach.
Why? Because the "experts" all knew the Dolphins were taking a tackle in the first round. There is no way Miami does not make that move. But, when they did, the experts all could not come off their prediction that Lane Johnson was the move Miami was making.
Now, with Jordan seemingly having a setback in his recovery from shoulder surgery, it sounds like the Dolphins either should not have selected the Oregon Duck, or should not have "rushed" him back and risked him having complications. Neither of those is right, however.
And, ironically, this is the same shoulder injury that Drew Brees had that made the Dolphins completely back away from him. So, then it made the Dolphins overly cautious. Now, the Dolphins are being too aggressive.
Jordan's shoulder is going to be fine. I talked about this on Twitter yesterday, but I am almost a year out of shoulder surgery (in my case, they fixed a frayed rotator cuff, drained the bursa sack, removed a nerve from within the joint, and removed part of my collar bone). I am "100%" as per my doctor and cleared to do full activities. While I am not an NFL player, I am in the Army, so my shoulder is used a lot. There are days when, after simply doing pushups, my shoulder hurts; hurts to the point that I am icing it, resting it, and possibly going to the physical therapist to have them stretch it. It's not a lot of fun.
Jordan is six months out of surgery. It was a different repair, but still six months out of shoulder surgery. The fact that he is able to put his shoulder through the rigors of training camp, and NFL game action, already astounds me. Not in the sense that I think it is too soon for Jordan, given the amount of rehab and treatment to which NFL players have access each and every day, to be playing, but in the sense that I know how my shoulder felt six months after surgery. I know how it feels now 11+ months after surgery.
Could there be something more seriously wrong with Jordan's arm than just the normal aches and pains of recovering from surgery? Absolutely. However, it simply could be a matter of him feeling some tightness in the shoulder, especially as he works to break up scar tissue within it, and the team doing the right thing in holding him out of practice for a few days to let it rest.
Jordan was fully dressed for practice on Monday, and thought he was taking part until a coach told him to go report to the trainers. To me, this sounds more like the team protecting the player from himself than it does a player who is injured and absolutely cannot play.
That doesn't mean I am right, but at least that is how I see it right now.
As for starting, Jordan does not need to start. The Dolphins have a Pro Bowl defensive end in Wake and have a young player who seems set to break out in Olivier Vernon. They can afford to bring Jordan along slowly.
And, Jordan does not need to dominate. If he gets 5.0 sacks in his rookie year, 9.0 in 2014, and 2.5 in 2015, he will exactly match the first three years of Jason Taylor's career. Things seemed to work out for the Dolphins' Ring of Honor member.
Of course, Taylor did start 11 games that rookie season, but Jordan can have just as much impact coming into the game on passing downs as if he is a starter. Jordan's weakness right now is sealing the edge in run defense. It's something he needs to work on in order to become an every down defensive end. And it is something that he absolutely can fix.
It takes two things - reps and strength. As Coyle said, Jordan simply has not gotten the reps at this point to be ready to start and, with the shoulder issues, his strength is not as high as it could be. He has already added a lot of muscle to his frame from where he was at the Scouting Combine, and he will likely add more as the season continues. But, expecting him to start in Week 1 is probably expecting too much.
Don't rule anything out, though. The rest of Coyle's comments on Jordan's ability to start this year were, "We still have 3 weeks of training camp. It's a little bit premature to determine exactly what his status will be to begin the season. We're going to kind of just take it one day at a time, and continue to move forward."
The Dolphins have the day off today. The next one day at a time will be tomorrow, with practice set to begin at 8am.