Every General Manager hopes that the rookies they draft make an immediate impact during the season. It is a coach’s responsibility to find a way to work these rookies in to get playing time. Usually rookies that are drafted in the first four rounds are expected to make an impact on offense and defense, and the ones selected in rounds five through seven are needed to fill out special teams.
For the Miami Dolphins, they made a bold move in the 2013 NFL Draft by trading up from pick 12 to No. 3 overall to get defensive end Dion Jordan. A shoulder injury has slowed his progress through the first two games, but with an injury to Cameron Wake against the Atlanta Falcons, Jordan delivered two big plays. Right before halftime, Jordan stuffed Falcons running back Jason Snelling on a third-and-one from the two-yard line to force a field goal by Atlanta and get Miami the ball back. The Dolphins ended up driving down the field and getting a field goal to end the half. At the end of the game, Jordan also hit Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan to force an errant throw that ended up being intercepted by Jimmy Wilson to seal the game.
Rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis delivered two big field goals and also allowed zero return yards on kickoffs the whole game. Sturgis made both his field goal attempts in crucial situations. He hit a 46-yard field goal to end the first half and keep the Dolphins within three points at halftime. With Miami trailing 20-10 in the middle of the third quarter, Sturgis nailed a 50-yard field goal to keep Miami within a touchdown of Atlanta.
The play that turned the game around was a special teams hit by rookie safety Don Jones. For Jones it was his lone tackle of the game, but it was enough for him to deserve a game ball. With Miami trailing 20-13 and punting from their own 25, Jones laid out Falcons return man Harry Douglas to force a fumble that was recovered by Miami on the Atlanta 19-yard line. Three plays later Miami scored a touchdown that tied the game and energized the team and the entire home crowd.
Coming into the season, Miami had big hopes for the tight end position. They went out and signed Dustin Keller to be a red zone threat for second year QB Ryan Tannehill. Unfortunately, Keller suffered a season-ending knee injury in the preseason and Miami was left with three unproven tight ends on their roster. One of those three is rookie Dion Sims, who entered the game with zero catches on the season. Sims, known for his blocking at Michigan State, came into the game on a first-and-goal from the one-yard line with 44 seconds remaining and the Dolphins trailing by three. Miami went with three tight ends and two running backs and had Atlanta thinking it was a run play. Tannehill sent the running back in motion and faked a hand off to the fullback before lobbing the ball over the defense to Sims. Sims made a one handed catch while being held to give Miami their first lead of the game with 38 second left.
The Miami Dolphins are sitting at 3-0 and the progression of these rookies will allow them to succeed not only this year, but in the coming years as well.