When the Miami Dolphins jumped from the 12th overall pick up to third in April's NFL Draft, everyone knew the team was taking offensive tackle Lane Johnson. Instead, the team snagged defensive end Dion Jordan, continuing an offseason that saw the team be aggressive in turning over the roster. However, Jordan, who went to school at Oregon, was not allowed, by NFL rules, to take part in any offseason workouts, other than the rookie minicamp, since his school's spring term did not end until June.
Not that it would have mattered for on-the-field work, since Jordan was also working to rehab from shoulder surgery. The shoulder issues would also cause problems at the start of training camp, when Jordan was held out the first couple of days, and through the second half of the preseason, when Jordan was limited in practices at best, and did not take part in the final preseason games.
He's been back at work this week, and appears set to play in the team's Week 1 matchup against the Cleveland Browns. Jordan will not be the starting defensive end, but he never was going to be in the first place. Jordan's role this season will be as a pass rush specialist, while he learns to set the edge against the run. It's the same role Olivier Vernon had last year, which seems to have worked for Vernon.
A healthy Jordan gives defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle options, which is exactly what he would want. Coyle can design packages that simply keep offenses off balance. Imagine a defensive line with Cameron Wake, Jared Odrick, Olivier Vernon, and Dion Jordan. Or, put Jordan at linebacker, behind Wake. Maybe through Derrick Shelby onto the line instead of Odrick. Or linebacker, and former defensive end, Koa Misi back up on the defensive line, as we saw him a few times in the preseason. Offensive lines will have difficulty figuring out where the Dolphins could be attacking.
Vernon got 431 defensive snaps last year coming off the bench. That put him on the field for 40% of the Dolphins 1,073 defensive snaps last year.
Vernon added another 244 snaps on special teams. There has been a lot of discussion about the Dolphins' plan to use Jordan on special teams this year. Jordan has the speed you want on kick coverage, and the length to be on field goal blocking duty. The Dolphins have already stated, they are not shy about playing starters on special teams. Jordan has the talent to do well on special teams, and he is filling the pass rush specialist role Vernon has vacated. Jordan will play special teams this year.
If Jordan sticks on the exact same path as Vernon, we will see 18 snaps on defense and 20 on special teams against the Browns. That was 26% of the defensive plays and 74% of the special teams' snaps. More defensive plays and fewer special teams contributions would not surprise me, but at least Vernon's role last season should give us a guide as to what we can expect each game.
The Dolphins were very careful this preseason to not show a lot of the unique looks this team could bring. That doesn't mean we didn't see some of it, specifically with Jordan spending time as a defensive end, an outside linebacker, and a middle linebacker at different points in the couple of games he did play. Sunday, against the Browns, I would expect some of those exotic looks to make their appearance, and Jordan will be heavily featured in them.
No matter how much, or how little, we see Jordan on Sunday, this is just the first game of what, hopefully, is a long career attacking opposing quarterbacks.