On Friday afternoon, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports dropped a bombshell on Miami Dolphins fans. “(Miami) has been gauging trade value for (2013) 1st round pick Dion Jordan, league sources said, after trading up to 3rd overall for him last year,” La Canfora tweeted, which predictably led to immediate backlash from Dolphins faithful.
Jordan had an underwhelming rookie season, registering a mere 2.0 sacks on just 339 defensive snaps. But he’s an elite talent who could blossom into a dominant pass rusher with added strength and more opportunities. In fact, if Jordan was to re-enter the draft this May, there’s a strong chance he would still be one of the first defensive players selected. He’s that talented and his ceiling remains that high.
Giving up on that potential would be the epitome of a premature decision by new GM Dennis Hickey and head coach Joe Philbin, who would likely be endorsing a potential trade if one ever transpires.
To be fair, the Dolphins refuted the report through the South Florida media, but this is something the club would have likely done regardless of the report’s accuracy. They obviously don’t want one of their players knowing he was or is on the trading block in case nothing materializes; that would be an awkward situation for the player and the team. And judging by the countless flabbergasted fans who vented their frustrations on social media sites like Twitter, the Dolphins’ PR department obviously felt the need to distinguish the fire.
Even if the Dolphins aren’t interested in trading Jordan, they seem to be undervaluing him; they wouldn’t have played him so little in 2013 if they weren’t. The other two pass rushers selected in the top 10 of last year’s draft, Ezekiel Ansah and Barkevious Mingo, both played more than 200 more snaps than Jordan did.
Miami’s coaching staff blamed a strength deficiency on Jordan’s limited snaps, citing a shoulder injury that prevented him from bulking up in the weight room last offseason. While Jordan was no stout run defender as a rookie, he didn’t grade as a liability against the run like the Dolphins seemingly suggest. According to Pro Football Focus, Jordan received a -0.5 run defense grade in 2013, which wasn’t much lower than the -0.2 grade Cameron Wake earned against the run.
Even if the Dolphins were justifiably uneasy about playing Jordan more on early downs, they could have still given him more opportunities to rush the passer. He may have only produced two sacks, but Jordan tallied a sack, quarterback hit or pressure on nearly 12 percent of his pass rushing snaps. Olivier Vernon, who led the Dolphins with 11.5 sacks, only produced a sack, quarterback hit or hurry on a little over nine percent of his rushes. Pro Football Focus actually ranked Jordan as the league’s 21st-most efficient pass rusher while ranking Vernon 39th.
Several pundits have suggested that Vernon’s emergence has made Jordan more expendable. It seems likely that Vernon’s impressive sack total was inflated and could eventually prove to be a fluke, though. Despite producing the seventh most sacks among 4-3 defensive ends, Vernon’s five quarterback hits ranked 36th and his 32 hurries ranked 20th at the position. He isn’t the breakout star his sack total suggests — at least not yet.
In a passing league, every defense strives to produce a relentless pass rush. Defensive end in the 4-3 defense and outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme is one of the most important positions in the game because of this ambition.
The Dolphins possess an elite pass rusher in Wake, but he just turned 32 years old in January. Meanwhile, Vernon improved during his sophomore campaign but has yet to surface as a consistent rusher. Jordan possesses the potential to eventually become one of the game’s most prolific quarterback hunters. He also has the athleticism to contribute in many other ways as evidenced by the +2.0 coverage grade — third highest at his position — he received from Pro Football Focus this past season.
The Dolphins are incredibly fortunate to have Jordan in aqua and orange. Not only should they refuse to give up on him after only one season, but they should compose a full-fledged initiative to get Jordan a vastly more significant role in 2014.
Jordan should be viewed as the future Miami’s defense, not trade bait.
Cody Strahm is a Miami Dolphins contributor for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @CodyJStrahm.