There are numerous players on the Miami Dolphins roster that must elevate their game in 2013 to help end an elongated run of mediocrity and return the franchise to playoff-caliber form.
The Dolphins have signed several marquee free agents this offseason to help them do just that. Returning players like Ryan Tannehill and Jonathan Martin will also have a huge responsibility in helping transform the Dolphins into winners once again. Even a few rookies will be counted on to have an immediate impact. And that’s where we start this series off; with a rookie.
Over the next few weeks, we will be playing over/under for several players who are expected to have a major contribution this season. We start with Dolphins’ first-round pick Dion Jordan.
It’s really not ideal to have rookies step into a situation where there is pressure to be highly productive right away. But because the Dolphins traded up to the third overall pick in order to nab Jordan, immediate expectations for the rookie phenom will naturally follow.
Harsh criticism of the pick by many national pundits won’t help ease those expectations either. Some have questioned Jeff Ireland’s decision to trade up for Jordan because the Dolphins run a 4-3 defense and Jordan is thought to be a much better fit as an outside linebacker in the 3-4.
But Miami, nevertheless, sees Jordan as the missing piece to a defense that is on the cusp of emerging as an elite unit. Cameron Wake is one of the most dominant pass rushers in the league. But he needs a sidekick for opposing offenses to game plan for. Without a complement, protections have been able to throw everything but the kitchen sink at Wake with no other rusher to consistently double team.
If Jordan can live up to his potential and his freakishly athletic physique, the Dolphins will be able to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks with an explosive one-two pass rushing punch. And that has proven time and time again to be the formula to containing some of the league’s most prolific offenses.
Without another consistent pass rusher emerging (a.k.a. Jordan), the Dolphins may not have the tools to slow down a quarterback like Tom Brady and an offense like the Patriots. So if Miami has even a remote chance of seriously challenging New England for the AFC East crown, Dion Jordan will likely have a huge role in any division title run.
But how much can we honestly expect from Jordan as a rookie? A rookie who is considered thin for his position and who is recovering from a shoulder surgery that will most likely prohibit him from bulking up in the weight room. A rookie who will miss a large portion of the Dolphins’ offseason program because he doesn’t graduate from Oregon until June. And a rookie who is considered fairly raw for a top-five pick.
Can Jordan follow in the footsteps of Von Miller and Aldon Smith, who posted double-digit sack totals as rookies? Let’s set Jordan’s over/under.
Dion Jordan over/under: 7.25 sacks
My take: Under
Don’t get me wrong, I loved this pick. In a pass-first league, a fierce rush is the only way to neutralize elite quarterbacks who can dissect even the tightest of coverage. And Jordan has the tools to provide just that. But maybe not this season.
I think he’ll be held back initially by this shoulder injury. There’s no denying he needs to bulk up if wants to be an every down player in the 4-3. Not being able to lift or be a part of the Dolphins’ offseason program is going to impede his progress some.
But I still think he’ll have an impact. I see him getting five or six sacks as he develops behind Jared Odrick. Then, next season, when Odrick moves inside to defensive tackle, Jordan will be ready to start as an every down player at defensive end.
But I also see the Dolphins moving Jordan around quite a bit this season. He’ll see some snaps at linebacker, drop back into coverage some and blitz standing up. He’s too versatile and athletic for defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle not to move him all over the field.
Bottom line, I think Jordan will improve the Dolphins’ defense and pass rush this season, but I don’t expect to see him dominate until at least late in the year if not 2014.
Alright, now it’s your turn. Do you see Jordan putting up at least 7.5 sacks this season?