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Eye-Opening Rookie Campaign For Jordan

Posted Jan 6, 2014

Miami’s first-round draft pick experienced growing pains.

Pressure and expectations increase exponentially for rookies in the National Football League based on where they were chosen in the NFL Draft. None of the Miami Dolphins rookies had more pressure or higher expectations than defensive end Dion Jordan.

From the moment it was announced that the Dolphins had traded up from the 12th pick in the first round all the way up to No. 3 in order to take the athletic and lanky Jordan, the heat of the spotlight could be felt. Immediate comparisons to legendary defensive end Jason Taylor began to take shape based on their similar build as both stand 6-foot-6 inches tall and are close to the same weight (Jordan is listed at 248 and Taylor played at around 255).

Now that his rookie campaign has come to a close, Jordan can take stock of all he learned from three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake sitting next to him in the locker room and put in perspective everything he went through from his first day in Davie. By the time he was cleaning out his locker last Monday less than 24 hours after Miami’s 20-7 season-ending loss to the New York Jets he had a better understanding of what life in the NFL is like.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a grind like this, especially coming from the University of Oregon and high school,” said Jordan, who finished with 26 tackles (19 solo), two sacks and two passes defensed in 16 games. “I guess I was a little spoiled, but I knew coming in that this is an all-star league and everybody that you’re playing against is good and you’re playing against some great guys. The margin of victory is so small in this league, mainly because of the guys that you’re playing against, and I have to make sure I gain those strides so I can help my team out and make sure we can pull out these big wins.”

That first day in Davie began with lots of fanfare as Jordan was driven up to the entrance of the team’s practice facility where a throng of television cameras and reporters was waiting. He posed for photos with a season ticket member who had won the honor of welcoming him to the Dolphins and then stood at a podium for his introductory press conference, answering questions about those JT comparisons.

Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland spoke highly of Jordan and the type of game-changer he was capable of becoming, explaining why he was willing to move up so high to take the Oregon Duck. Offseason shoulder surgery put the rookie behind the eight ball in terms of his development, as he was limited throughout the majority of training camp and the preseason. That led to a different role on defense under defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle than originally anticipated, especially after second-year defensive end Olivier Vernon emerged as a viable starter (Vernon led the team with 11.5 sacks), but Jordan was not at all discouraged.

“I knew coming in what the deal was,” he said. “They wanted me to make sure that I was healthy first of all and that I was able to help out the team. So that’s what it was and they wanted to make sure that I was all right. I came in and I did as much as I could with my snaps so I can’t complain. If you’re out there you’re expected to be productive and I was out there, no many how snaps it was. The way a lot of our games went, teams were running the ball a lot and I don’t really think they wanted probably one of the lightest guys in the defensive line room playing all of those double teams and scoops. I’m a pass rusher.”

Jordan is fully aware how important it is for him to develop into a complete player and improve against the run like Wake has had to do over his career. That’s why he has enlisted the advice of defensive tackles Jared Odrick, Paul Soliai and Randy Starks, as well as Wake and Vernon so that he can improve his technique.

No. 3 overall picks are expected to be more than just third-down specialists, and while Jordan showed flashes of that game-changing ability, like when he hit Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco’s arm as he threw, leading to an interception and return for a touchdown by safety Reshad Jones, he wants to do more. He’ll have an entire offseason to make the necessary improvements in that department.

“I’ve gained a lot of strides but I’ve got a lot to work do, obviously,” Jordan said. “I’ve just got to keep my feet in the dirt and grind it out. I just have to gain the respect of my teammates and my coaches and eventually I’ll be able to get out there and show them what I can do. I could have made more plays when I was out there and I feel like that probably would have helped me out a lot more but this offseason I’ve got to get much better as a player in all aspects. It’s helped me a lot being in the room that I’ve been in these last four or five months and I’ve just got to develop as a player.”
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