Former Miami Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland deserves blame for many of the signings and draft selections he conducted during his tenure. Trading up to the No. 3 overall pick in last April’s draft to snag Dion Jordan is not one of them. At least not yet. And I, for one, still believe the move might eventually be remembered as his best.
There’s no way to sugar coat it: Jordan’s rookie campaign was a huge disappointment. Only three of the 32 rookies selected in the first-round who didn’t suffer an injury during the year played fewer snaps than the 339 Jordan logged on Kevin Coyle‘s defense. While that may not be entirely his fault, his lack of production on those snaps certainly was.
In 206 pass-rushing opportunities, Jordan only tallied two sacks, four quarterback hits and 18 hurries — a noteworthy impact on a mere 12 percent of said snaps. According to Pro Football Focus, that production was only good enough for a -3.3 accumulative pass-rushing grade. To make matters worse, fellow rookie pass rushers who were also selected in the top 10, Ezekiel Ansah and Barkevious Mingo, combined for 13.0 sacks and each played over 200 more snaps than Jordan did.
Not exactly what Dolphins fans were expecting.
But those same fans need to take a deep breath. By no means does Jordan’s lack of production in his first season as a pro mean the Dolphins whiffed on another draft pick. According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Jordan is taking several proactive steps this offseason to improve and assure that they didn’t.
Getting stronger is an obvious priority for Jordan. The former Oregon Duck was held back by a shoulder injury last offseason that lingered over into training camp. As a result, he wasn’t able to lift weights nearly as hard or as often as normal. A strength deficiency was a big reason why he was often on the sideline while Olivier Vernon and Derrick Shelby soaked up the snaps at defensive end. The Dolphins just didn’t trust Jordan when it came to setting the edge against the run.
Still, there were plenty of pass-rushing opportunities Jordan didn’t take part in. He needs to improve his specialty as well. To do so, Jordan will reportedly study the film of some of the league’s best quarterback hunters, like DeMarcus Ware, Von Miller and Jared Allen. In addition, he’ll also seek guidance from teammate Cameron Wake, who is headed to his third Pro Bowl this weekend.
To improve his hand-combat ability, which is essential to any finesse rusher like Jordan, he reportedly plans on doing some MMA training with Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer in Los Angeles.
Most encouragingly to any Dolphins fan who hopes to see Jordan emerge as a premiere pass rusher, though, is his plan to meetup with the greatest pass rusher to ever don the aqua and orange, Jason Taylor. The likely future Hall of Famer registered 139.5 sacks, 40 forced fumbles, eight interceptions and three touchdowns during his 15-year career.
“I want to pick his brain,” Jordan told the Miami Herald. “Watching his film is a project for me this offseason. I’ve got to continue to develop moves.”
There’s no other pass rusher, former Dolphin or not, who is better suited to mentor Jordan than Taylor. The two are very similar in body type and both are (was in Taylor’s case) of the speed rushing, finesse variety. The obvious difference is Jordan is extremely raw and needs to hone his craft like Taylor was able to do on his way to four first-team All-Pro selections and a Defensive Player of the Year award.
Like Jordan, Taylor entered the league as a raw prospect and relied on his speed almost exclusively early on. As a result, Taylor didn’t produce a double-digit sack season until his fourth year after developing a whole repertoire of pass-rushing moves, essentially transforming pass rushing into an art form.
If Jordan can become half of the craftsman Taylor was, expect his improvement to be drastic next season and in the years to follow.
At the time of his selection, it appeared as though the Dolphins were getting the best defensive player in the draft. Jordan wasn’t that as a rookie, but he’s still more than capable of living up to that billing in the future. After all, Jason Taylor only produced five sacks in his rookie season.
Cody Strahm is a Miami Dolphins contributor for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @CodyJStrahm.