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A Breakdown of Dion Jordan's Impact on Cameron Wake's Strip-Sack

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Due to the coaching staff's reluctance to expand Jordan's role in the defense, we have been left with just glimpses of what the third overall pick can bring to the table. The few big impact plays he's made in limited work have left many clamoring for more from the rookie, but I maintain that his biggest value will be in the positional versatility he provides. There was one play on Sunday that exemplified what I mean. Here's the breakdown:

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Wake got the sack and caused the fumble, but he has the rookie Jordan to thank
Wake got the sack and caused the fumble, but he has the rookie Jordan to thank
Gregory Shamus

After about 20 minutes of snowy game action, the Pittsburgh Steelers held a narrow 7-3 lead over the visiting Miami Dolphins and were driving again from their own 26-yard line. In the first quarter, they had success moving the ball on the ground and with short passes, and after two Felix Jones running plays they lined up on 3rd-and-4 with a pass play called.

Pittsburgh lined up in a three receiver shotgun set, and Miami countered with a two-deep look, showing five pass rushers. As a departure from the norm, Dion Jordan is lined up at the defensive tackle position.

Presnap_medium

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger reads the look the Dolphins are giving him and determines he's facing man coverage, which is both logical and accurate. With this information, he concludes his running back will be wide open on a swing pass, as middle linebacker Dannell Ellerbe would be hard-pressed to get out to defend the short pass and prevent the short first down pick up.

After the snap, Jordan stakes one step in towards the rush then peels out into flat coverage.

Postsnap_medium

This has two effects. First, being a regular pass rusher, Jordan's first step commands the attention of right guard David DeCastro and in effect makes him an idle blocker, helping ensure that defensive end Cameron Wake has a favorable one-on-one situation on the outside.

Second, Jordan's speed allows him to get out to the flat and cover the quarterback's first read. When Roethlisberger realizes that the back he anticipated to be open is not, he has to pull the ball down and go through his progressions, giving Wake the increment of time he needs to make the play.

If either one of these conditions existed on its own, Roethlisberger would have had either an open first read or the time to find a second option downfield. Because of Jordan's tremendous versatility and physical ability, both of those options are effectively eliminated by a single player executing his assignment.

Wake stripped Rothlisberger on the play and Randy Starks recovered the ball for Miami. This was also the moment when Steelers lineman Cody Wallace decided to go to work on Starks' nether region. So it wasn't all roses for all the Dolphins players.

Anyway, the Dolphins' offense scored a touchdown with the resulting short field. Jordan's unique abilities had a tremendous, indirect effect on the turnover in a way that won't show up in the box score. While it may be true that it's hard for the coaching staff to get him on the field ahead of established superstar Wake and the blossoming Olivier Vernon (and apparently Derrick Shelby, too), finding a way to get this game-changing ability in position to make impacts like this needs to be a priority.

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All player data is courtesy of Pro Football Focus and all contract info is courtesy of OverTheCap.com.

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