Yesterday we took a deep dive into Dion Jordan’s rookie season focusing on the snaps where he lined up at defensive end in Miami’s 4-3 defense. But as I pointed out yesterday, despite running a base 4-3, Miami runs a variety of hybrid looks, and Dion Jordan was a significant part of that.
By looking at some of the snaps where Dion Jordan was standing up, instead of with his hand in the ground as a pass rusher, it also allows us to evaluate his potential fit as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 system. Now obviously some of the aspects we covered yesterday; pass rushing and run defense are an important aspect of a 3-4 LB so we will just expand on that post today.
The DL will occupy both B gaps and the C gap on the line. This opens up the middle of the line for Jordan to blitz through the hole:
Rivers is forced to throw off his back foot and get rid of the ball for an incomplete pass:
Here are the Dolphins again in a 3-3-5 set. With Jordan standing up in the ILB position. Often times the Dolphins will have Jordan moving around and roaming pre-snap. It’s actually pretty similar to how Jim Johnson used N.D. Kalu and Jevon Kearse as the JOKER in the OKIE package. It’s also similar to how Billy Davis used Connor Barwin as the JACK
Again Jordan is going to blitz and is picked up cleanly by the Bucs LG who effectively gets his hands on Jordan:
Jordan does a nice job of keep his arms extended and pushes off the block:
Maintains control and closes for a hit on the QB:
Finally, here’s Dion lined up with his hand in the ground on the outside. He is going to stunt and loop into the inside:
Sheds a block up the middle to pressure Luck:
This should be Dion’s 3rd sack of the season, but he carelessly tries to push Luck down instead of wrapping up and tackling. He essentially bounces off Luck:
Luck gets away and scrambles to convert a key 3rd and long:
I’ve perhaps left the most encouraging and valuable aspect of Dion Jordan’s 2013 rookie campaign for last: his ability to drop into zone coverage and to also play man coverage over the tight end in some situations.
Let’s start with the zone coverage first. Having a player like Dion Jordan allows the Dolphins, who run a base 4-3, to not only run some 3-4 and 3-3-5 looks but to also employ zone blitzes as part of their pressure packages. On this play the Dolphins have rolled out their dime package with 6 defensive backs. Jordan is standing up as a LB roaming behind the LOS:
At the snap, he’ll drop back into coverage. This is where Jordan’s athleticism and length really pays off. He is very fluid and natural in his drop backs and can use his size to essentially shrink throwing windows for QBs. Here Newton wants to go his slot receiver, but with 2 DBs deep over the top, Dion is able to naturally drop 7 yards and Newton doesn’t have a window to throw into. Here the Dolphins send 4, but the Panthers don't know which 4 which makes a 4 man rush more unpredictable:
Here is another one:
Newton has no throwing options and has to eat the ball for a sack:
Here’s another one to highlight that Jordan still can improve in this area and adjust to the speed of QB progessions in the pro game.
Jordan drops into the zone and has to be cautious as he has inside responsibility on the slot receiver Harry Douglas if he turns inside. Douglas turns out and the CB has him blanketed:
Jordan now needs to drop deeper to take away the seam between the LB and safeties being run by Julio Jones, he actually finds himself in pretty good position:
However he’s not watching the QB and as you can see above, Ryan has already released the football. Jordan is in pretty good position, but can’t react to the ball whizzing by him. The result is a nice completion and first down for the Falcons:
Here’s Jordan lined up over the LG with his hand in the dirt. This one of these hybrid looks the Dolphins can run with a the skill set Jordan has:
The Dolphins will send 4 rushers after Roethilsberger but Jordan drops back in coverage. Roethilsberger’s initial read is the running back coming out of the backfield but Jordan quickly drops back and takes that option completely away:
Roethilsberger is forced to hold the ball and improvise. He gets crushed by Wake and fumbles. The Dolphins recover:
The Dolphins showed they were not afraid to line up Jordan over the tight end. Here he is lined up over Jimmy Graham in zone coverage:
and completely sticks with him in a short area:
But they also aren't afraid to line him up one-on-one in man coverage against some of the best tight ends in the game. This might be the most impressive aspect of his game. Here he is lined up in man coverage on Antonio Gates who is split out in the slot:
Here he is threatening to blitz the A gap, but drops back into coverage over Gates again in man coverage:
And one more, on Gates in the slot:
Here he is in man coverage lined up against Michael Hoomanawanui:
One more, lined up against THE Rob Gronkowski:
5 yard jam:
Blanketed on the OUT:
Brady ends up throwing out of bounds in that direction but Gronk is completely blanketed by Jordan. Impressive.
Finally, lets take a quick look at Jordan's defensive awareness. A couple of plays stood out in particular:
Here's Jordan standing up at LB:
Initially shows blitz:
but the Steelers run a quick screen to the outside to Antonio Brown. Jordan rcognizes quickly and is in pursuit:
and makes the tackle for a short gain:
Similar play against the Pats:
Finally, here's Jordan sniffing out a Joe Flacco-Ray Rice screen play:
Should have been an INT deep in Ravens territory but Jordan dropped it.
To summarize, I think I've shown over the last 2 posts that Dion Jordan's rookie campaign was more impactful than the stats suggest. In limited snaps he had at least half a dozen game-changing plays, and while some of his plays aren't showing up on the stat sheet his presence is being felt on the football field. Everyone knew Jordan was a raw prospect and that the torn labrum and surgery was going to hold him back in his rookie season. More importantly, looking ahead, I think Jordan illustrated significant potential.
If I were Howie and Chip, would I try and acquire Dion Jordan? Hell yeah. No question in my mind that he would be a great addition to this defense. I personally don't see anyone in FA or the draft that would be a better fit for what we do. However, as attractive as his skill set is, it's not a no-brainer and is certainly a bit of gamble. Clearly Jordan has work to do in the run department. The clips I showed in regards to run defense don't instill a ton of confidence that he could consistently set the edge in the run game. That said, if he takes his offseason seriously, you expect him to be stronger at the POA in 2014.
But also, how much do you give up for a guy who shows good potential as a pass rusher, but doesn't have the production to back it up? The way I look at it, Jordan currently is not the elite pass rusher you would like at the OLB position, however the potential for him to develop into that is clearly there. Currently, in his rookie campaign he showed that he's more similar to the Connor Barwin mold where he can serve as a versatile weapon as both a pass rusher and coverage player. That said, in the absence of a premier pass rusher for the Eagles in the draft or FA, for the Billy Davis defense, I would prefer another OLB who can drop into coverage. This introduces an unpredictability to the defense that we simply didn't have last year. Trent Cole and Brandon Graham are not players you drop in coverage. Both of them rushed the passer >90% of their snaps last year. That makes the defense somewhat predictable. Billy Davis comes from the Dick Lebeau school and you can bet he would love to run more zone blitzes and keep the QB guessing as to where the pressure is coming from. With two versatile players like Jordan and Barwin on the outside, Billy could have that.
So taking all this into account the question is, how much do you pay for Dion Jordan? One thing is for certain and it should be stated VERY clearly. The Dolphins are not going to give him away, nor should they. This talk about Jordan not being a fit in the 4-3 defense is BS in my books. He brings a versatility to a defense that not many players in the entire NFL can duplicate. Sure you can argue that the Dolphins have good players in front of Jordan, and you can argue that they fired the GM that traded up and drafted him. But I honestly believe that the Dolphins didn't draft Jordan as a 4-3 DE exclusively. They drafted him for his versatlity and we got a snippet of the value he brings in his rookie season. The Dolphins will likely build on these concepts and I think he will be a breakout player for them in 2014.
In the end, if you want Jordan, I think it's going to come at a very high cost. After some low-balling and playing around, I'd be willing to part with #22 and Brandon Graham...but at the end of the day, I don't think that's going to be enough to budge the Dolphins.
What say you?