Over the past week, rumors began to surface that the Dolphins were floating around Dion Jordan's name in trade talks. While this should come as a surprise considering the Dolphins traded up to #3 in the draft (just ahead of the Eagles) to select Jordan just one year ago, it doesn't. In fact, there has been discussion about this possibility all offseason, it's just that the rumors have leaked that he's being shopped have added more fuel to the fire.
The argument for the Dolphins trading Jordan goes something like this:
1) He didn't do anything for the Dolphins last year
2) He's more suited to be a 3-4 OLB than a 4-3 DE, and the Dolphins run a 4-3 base package
3) The GM that traded up to get Jordan, Jeff Ireland, has since been fired by the organization
4) The Dolphins have 2 players they are pretty high on that had excellent seasons in Olivier Vernon at RDE and Koa Misi at SAM LB, thus making Jordan even more expendable.
Makes some amount of sense. On the other side, IF Jordan is indeed available, the argument that the Eagles would be one of the most interested teams goes like this:
1) Arguably the Eagles biggest need is an OLB for their 3-4. They have Trent Cole and Brandon Graham but they are converted 4-3 DEs. Dion Jordan is seemingly more suited to that role, especially in the long term.
2) The obvious Chip Kelly connection
3) The belief that Dion was top 3 on the Eagles draft board last year. Chip essentially said it in his draft press conference and more rumblings that they would have taken Jordan over Lane Johnson has surfaced
4) The Eagles have ammunition. Obviously draft picks, and potentially a couple of odd fits that a 4-3 defense might covet in Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry.
The Dolphins have officially denied that they are shopping Dion Jordan, and the latest reports are that the Eagles inquired but were told he's not available.
All this aside, I think there's enough smoke here to dedicate a lengthy series of posts on what Jordan accomplished in his 2013 season and to assess:
1) Whether the Dolphins actually SHOULD keep him, and
2) Whether he looks to be a player the Eagles should consider giving up significant compentation for.
Click the link for the detailed breakdown
One of the things I want to really touch on in this post, is what I have realized are perhaps some "misconceptions" about Dion Jordan and his rookie season. I've read some comments about how Jordan doesn't fit the Dolphins defense. He is not an ideal 4-3 Defensive End, and he's not a SAM LB in a 4-3. Furthermore, he's at best a situational pass rusher in their scheme. After reviewing all of his defensive snaps in 2013. I don't really agree with that.
First, while a signicant amount of Jordan's snaps were from the RDE position, and the Dolphins do indeed run a base 4-3, they like to use a lot of hybrid looks and Dion Jordan was a big part of that in 2014. For example here's Jordan in his familiar position at RDE:
Stand-up Inside Linebacker:
Man Coverage over the Tight End:
Needless to say. The man is a diverse player who can be moved around. So the argument that the Dolphins don't NEED Jordan, or that he doesn't fit their scheme is not altogether true. In fact, one could argue that he makes their scheme more dynamic. He can line up all over the field, and has some pass rush skills that need to be accounted for. From my perspective, this means that I don't think the Dolphins NEED to trade Dion. However, perhaps if the right offer comes a long that allows them the ability to go in a different direction, perhaps they can be convinced.
So I decided to split this topic into 2 posts. Dion Jordan the 4-3 Defensive End vs. Dion Jordan the 3-4 Outside Linebacker. Obviously there is overlap in both of these posts in the skillset you look for in each position. We'll take a look at his pass rush production which is equally important in as a 4-3 DE and a 3-4 OLB. In Part 1 we'll also focus on his run defense.
Let's dip into Dion's actual production and impact on the field. The stats will tell you that Dion Jordan did not have a very successful rookie campaign. 19 total tackles and 2 sacks are not what you are hoping for from the #3 overall pick who played in all 16 games. Jordan only averaged about 20 total snaps per game including special teams where he was a regular. However, after diving into the film, the stats don't tell the whole story.
Let's start with Dion Jordan the 4-3 Right Defensive End. Ultimately for Dion to be an asset for the Dolphins, I think he needs to be a productive pass rusher from this spot. Obivously his sack production was disappointing, but it doesn't tell the whole story. Everyone knew that Dion Jordan was raw as a pass rusher and was going to require some work. So just because he didn't register a 10+ sack rookie campaign, should it mean he is a bust. Coaches need to evaluate the film and project whether he is taking to coaching and whether there is signs of improvement. Overall, I thought Dion showed some promise in this area.
When evaluating pass rushers there are a number of things you are looking for. Tommy Lawlor did an excellent breakdown of college prospect Anthony Barr a few weeks ago highlighting what you are looking for in a pass rusher. check it out.
For Jordan, one thing I find he lacked last season was a really good explosive burst off the snap. It's not bad...but it's not among some of the elite pass rushers you see in the NFL.For Jordan, the thing that really stands out on tape is his Change of Direction or COD. This is of course also important in coverage, but when you watch a lot of pass rushers, the problem is they try to use their speed to beat OTs on the outside shoulder but if they don't have great COD to turn on a sharp angle to get to the QB, the OT can often ride them outside of the pocket. This is an area where Connor Barwin struggles as a pass rusher, he doesn't have great COD.
Here's Jordan lined up at the Wide 9 against All-Pro Joe Thomas:
Joe is able to get his hands on Dion, but because of the wide angle, Jordan has room to turn and chase:
As you can see Jordan just misses a strip sack, but forces an incomplete pass.
Here it is again:
Beats the OT to the outside:
Turn and close:
Hurries the throw and gets a hit on Matt Ryan:
The very next play, he did the same thing again:
Forces an early throw and hits Ryan. This ended up forcing a Dolphins INT that sealed the win for the Dolphins:
One more, turning the corner:
This time, thanks to those long arms, Jordan does get his hand on the football:
The ball pops up in the air, the Dolphins pick it off and return it for a TD:
Three huge plays in those games for the Dolphins that didn't show up on the stat sheet for Jordan.
Despite Jordan's ability to turn the corner, NFL DEs must have a variety of pass-rushing moves. This is clearly an area where Jordan needs a fair amount of work. He rarely rushed to the inside of the tackle for example. However, one thing that was a pleasant surprise, considering one of Jordan's noted weaknesses is strength, was his ability to bull-rush.
Here's Jordan against Panthers LT Jordan Gross:
Instead of trying to beat him around the edge, Jordan takes him on with a bull rush:
and forces Gross back into Newton in the pocket:
Here he is against Saints LT Charles Brown:
Jordan takes him head on and forces Brown off balance:
Shed the block and pushes Brees into the pocket where his teammates share a sack:
Here he is, taking on Michael Oher:
and pushing him into Flacco:
Another coachable aspect of a pass rusher is proper use of their hands to help keep the OT from getting their clutches on the pass rusher. Jordan, shows pretty decent hand work and the ability to dis-engage from the OT.
Here Gross seems to have Jordan in good position for a lock down:
Jordan however keeps his long arms extended and away from Gross:
He's then able to disengage from Gross and start the chase after Newton:
For one of his 2 sacks on the season:
Here's Jordan facing a double team against the Jets:
Once getting off the double team, he's able to use a swim move to get by Ferguson:
and forces Smith to throw the ball away:
And once again, good use of hands to dis-engage:
and turn the corner:
And forcing Ben to step up into a cleaner pocket:
Without question in mind, Dion showed very good promise in his rookie campaign that perhaps he has the potential to develop into the pass rusher the Dolphins hoped he could be. The bad news is that the area where Jordan struggled that ultimately kept him off the field in 2013, was against the run. Jordan is not an overly physical player and he doesn't have that explosive first step to really disrupt the LOS at the snap. As a result, unless he makes huge improvements in this area, I see Dion's future in a 4-3 exclusively at RDE. While his snaps were down, he did not have a single stuff on the season. He basically never got behind the LOS in the run game unless he was unblocked on a read-option. I don't think he's a guy you can count on to consistently set the edge in the run game.
I do want to say that Dion did make some plays in the run game, and seems willing. He's just not likely going to be a dominant run defender.
Here's one of his snaps at RDE
Jordan is engaged but extends his arms and keeps his eyes on the play:
Dis-engages and tackles the ball-carrier:
Unfortunately, that kind of play wasn't the norm. Here the Pats will motion an H-back to Dion's side:
They apply the initial double team where Mankins basically gives him a shove:
and #47 easily rides him wide for a huge running lane:
Against Tampa Bay, the Bucs seemed happy devoting only a TE to block Jordan in the run game:
And here's him breaking the cardinal sin of run defense. Breaking contain.
Finally, here is Jordan getting rag-dolled in space by Jahri Evans:
In closing, I think Dion Jordan definitely shows promise in developing into a premier NFL pass rusher in the Dolphins 4-3. He definitely has the tools, and adding strength along with some pass rush moves will go a long way in helping him get there. You'd certainly feed a lot better if you were the Dolphins had he gotten to the QB with a little more frequency last year. Furthermore, it appears he has a lot of room to improve to become an every-down player in the run game, and looks to be exclusively a right defensive end at this point in his career.
Is that enough for the Dolphins to turn down trade offers? Certainly he offers a unique skill set that goes beyond being a conventional DE. We'll take a closer look at that in Part 2.