« Friday night file: Thirteen Dolphins, Hurricanes, Heat notes | Main | Monday afternoon UM and Dolphins quick hits; Heat signs point guard »

Questions linger on Dion Jordan's role, position; Fins, UM, Loria, Heat, Panthers chatter

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

A Fins six-pack:

### It’s notable that Dion Jordan, the third overall pick and first defensive player selected in the 2013 NFL Draft, has played the fewest defensive snaps of any of the 17 first-round draft picks that play defense and have not missed a game due to injury (just 26 -- one more than Cleveland's Barkevious Mingo, who missed the opener because of injury).

What's more, Jordan has played fewer offensive or defensive snaps than any healthy first-round rookie except Minnesota receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, selected 29th.

What’s more, aside from Seattle (which had no first-rounder) and Cleveland (which had only five picks), Miami’s rookie draft picks have played fewer offensive or defensive snaps (78) than any other team so far.

Cause for concern? Absolutely not. Dolphins players love Jordan’s skill set and work ethic and expect he will be very good. Cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Will Davis have been injured. Kicker Caleb Sturgis has been terrific. Players love the potential of Davis and tight end Dion Sims and like Taylor’s quickness, though everyone needs to see more from him. (There’s far less optimism about guard/tackle Dallas Thomas, who hasn't impressed in practice, according to a player.)

With Miami’s depth in the front seven, the biggest question is how to get Jordan on the field more and where he best fits long-term.

The Dolphins are determined to make it work with Jordan primarily as a 4-3 defensive end. But the coach who knows him best believes that’s not his best spot.

“To me, he’s best as an outside linebacker,” Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said, “because when he sets the edge with that leverage, and the way he can run, he will keep everything inside. He can be an outstanding rusher off the edge. I’m not saying he can’t play end. [But] he’s best” at linebacker.

Some evaluators agree with Aliotti. Jordan played mostly as a standup outside linebacker in Oregon’s hybrid 3-4 scheme -– a position Jason Taylor thrived at late in his Dolphins career -– but also some end.

“Jordan’s not a 4-3 end,” said former Packers, Raiders and Falcons executive Ken Herock, who worked with Jordan before the draft. “His best spot is linebacker and he’ll be a great linebacker. He has all the ingredients -– smooth, fluid, athletic, smart, long arms, can take on tight ends. He’s a better athlete than Jason Taylor. Taylor could never play in space like this guy.”

Unless the Dolphins move back to a 3-4 –- which seems unlikely under coordinator Kevin Coyle – they want Jordan primarily at end, considering they have committed long-term financially to Koa Misi, Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler as their linebackers.

But if Olivier Vernon proves to be a very good starting end –- and if he outplays Misi, which he hasn’t so far -– then where to play Jordan would be worth re-considering.

For now, the challenge is creating playing time for Jordan behind Vernon, or at times, with Vernon and Cameron Wake in a selectively-used speed package. Derrick Shelby (two sacks and two forced fumbles in two games) also has earned snaps.

Asked if he expects to play more Sunday, Jordan –- who missed much of preseason with a shoulder injury - said: “That’s the plan. I got a lot of work in practice this week.”

Though Pro Football Focus ranks Vernon as the league’s worst 4-3 end, Vernon said Dolphins coaches graded him “in the 80s, which is good” for the two games.

Jordan, who said he feels stronger after bulking up to 260 pounds, said one of his adjustments has been that “guys are much bigger here.” And that’s more of an issue at end. But he said he’s fine playing either end or linebacker.

“I played with my hand in the dirt all throughout high school, and I’m playing it now,” he said. “I feel like it actually helps me because I’m going forward instead of having to worry about dropping backward into sets. It doesn’t matter to me. I’ve just got to make plays no matter where they put me.”

### Aside from Jordan and Sims (49), Jelani Jenkins (three) is the other rookie to play an offensive or defensive snap so far. (Caleb Sturgis' field goals are listed as special teams snaps.) Running back Mike Gillislee, inactive both games, said: “The NFL is 10 times as fast as the SEC. It’s something I have to adjust to."

### This epitomizes this franchise’s problems the past decade: From 1970 to 2003, the Dolphins had the NFL’s best record in September home games (42-5). Since 2004, they have the second-worst at 4-11, better than only Cleveland’s 4-12.

And Miami’s overall home record the past 10 seasons (36-44) is better than only Oakland, St. Louis, Detroit and Cleveland.

“It hasn’t been very noisy at Sun Life in a while,” Brian Hartline said.

Is there even much of a home-field advantage here? “I wouldn’t say an overwhelming presence,” he said.

### A year ago, Michael Egnew’s blocking was so poor that one defensive player insisted coaches subconsciously would not give as much credit to defensive plays made with Egnew blocking. Now, Egnew has improved to the point where he said offensive coordinator Mike Sherman has commended him for blocks, in front of teammates, during film session. “I’m 100 percent better,” Egnew said.

Matt Moore said Egnew “is much more physical and has better awareness.” Tight ends Egnew and Dion Sims haven’t been thrown a pass yet and hope that changes Sunday.

### Ellerbe, comparing the Dolphins to his Super Bowl-winning Ravens of 2012: “We’re in the same ballpark talent-wise. And this defense is faster than Baltimore’s last year.”

### Mellow Joe Philbin displays such little emotion that Wake said “it surprises you” when he showed joyful excitement after the Colts win. “Now he’s starting to let his personality out -– it takes some getting used to,” Wake said, unable to remember Philbin being more excited than he was last Sunday.

CHATTER

Coaches that win consecutive championships receive lucrative offers for speeches, book deals and more. But we hear the Heat’s Erik Spoelstra is turning down everything. As a friend said, at this point in his life, he wants to focus on winning championships.

Spoelstra again has used a bit of his time this summer to study coaches and their techniques, including friend Chip Kelly in Philadelphia and Pete Carroll in Seattle. (He also spoke to Seahawks and University of Tennessee players, and Russell Wilson raved about his speech to the Seahawks.)

### An example of the peculiar way Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is doing business: When Larry Beinfest, the president of baseball operations, suggested last month that the Marlins promote second baseman Derek Dietrich in September, Loria said no. Loria is annoyed that Dietrich accused former first base coach Tino Martinez - Loria’s hand-picked choice -- of abusive behavior.

But when assistant GM Dan Jennings then recommended to Loria that Dietrich be promoted, Loria changed his mind and gave the OK -– a point that became moot when Dietrich suffered an oblique injury before his promotion.

Among those who have Loria’s ear: Jennings, vice president/player development Marty Scott and agent Scott Boras (primarily concerning how to handle star client Jose Fernandez).

Why is Loria no longer listening to Beinfest nearly as much? Because when Beinfest doesn’t like Loria’s personnel ideas, Beinfest tells him. And an associate said Loria doesn’t like his ideas being rejected and will do what he wants anyway.

### Few, if any, grand conclusions can be made from UM's 77-7 thumping of Savannah State on Saturday night, considering how dreadful the competition is. A few postgame items: The coaches decided at halftime that the fourth quarter would be cut to 12 minutes. That, combined with UM making no particular effort to score in the fourth quarter, left the Canes short of the school record for yardage (689 against UCLA in 1998.) UM finished with 637 yards of offense, to Savannah State's 183. "Al Golden is a heck of a guy," Savannah State coach Earnest Wilson said.. UM topped its school record for points by two but fell five short of Clemson's ACC record for points in a game (82)....

Of all the freshmen, Gus Edwards (12 for 113 on the ground and three touchdowns), Stacy Coley (88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and a 25-yard TD reception) and Al-Quadin Muhammad (two sacks) had the best nights, but several freshmen who hadn't played much got a lot of work, including linebacker Jermaine Grace, whom Golden challenged afterward to "study the game more, prepare more" and become more of a factor on special teams....

The supremely confident Muhammad said college football "is not what I expected.... It's fast. A lot of signals... I was upset about not getting any sacks yet" before Saturday.... Though Duke Johnson seemed in discomfort when he left late in the first quarter, Golden said both he and Stephen Morris (who had an ankle sprain) are fine. But Morris' situation warrants monitoring; Golden said Morris will stay off his feet for 48 hours.... Third-string quarterback Gray Crow, on his 6 for 6 passing night (55 yards): "Someone said when opportunity knocks, it knocks very quietly."... UM said it used 81 - 81! - players in the game.

### A source assures that Vincent Viola, the Panthers’ prospective new owner, has deep pockets, with a net worth north of $1 billion. Majority owner Cliff Viner decided not to keep a small piece, and all of the minority owners are selling to Viola. 

The Panthers are about $12 million below the $64 million salary cap ceiling, according to capgeek.com, and the hope around the club is the payroll eventually will increase. But we'll wait to hear from Viola on that before we get our hopes up, especially because the team has been losing $20 million a year.     

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

TK SWANN

GOOD WIN HOPE MORRIS IS OKAY AND NEED TO KEEP THE MOMEMTUM GOING ON DEFENSE. HATE WE LET THEM SCORE BUT TEAM DID WHAT THEY SUPPOSE TO DO NOW BEAT SF.

Randy Shannons' Agent

82 (record) - 77 (Canes points scored)
= 5, not 2

Pretty weak to cut 3 minutes of game time instead of going to a running clock which would have ended the game quicker and also been less of a farce.
So much for the "play hard for 60 minutes" cliche I suppose

Barry Jackson

R.S. Agent: I wrote 5. You did not read the sentence correctly. I wrote UM beat its school record for points by two, but fell five short of the ACC scoring record.

Nick

Please, Loria, sell the team. Please, please, please.

Ed

The Dolphins are winning inspite of Philbin, not because of him. He doesn't do anything that any college coach couldn't do.

Penguin

The world seems like a slightly better place after reading this column. Why? Because Spoelstra isn't cashing in and Golden showed compassion to another team. Stay classy, Miami!

David

Not picking the obvious choice of Tyler Eifort which would make Miami's offense unstoppable shows how Ireland's ego gets in the way of Dolphins turning the corner. Add to that Jimmy Graham, Dez Brant which could have been ours, with the ones picked are not good enough, or our coaches can't improve them enough to get on the field, makes a case for change at GM.

FZ B

David,

You like so many Dolphins fans are ignorant to the facts, let me just remind you that Parcells was in charge of every personel move the team made in 2008, 2009 and 2010, Ireland did not passed on Jimmy Graham and Dez Bryant , it was Parcells that did, you don't get paid 4 miilion dollars a year and not make the decisions.

Get your facts straight.

Mark

Dolphins are doomed until Ireland's fired, bought the Dolphins a year of not being embarrassing but they're going to be right back where they started when the bill comes due. Can't win in the NFL building through free agency and blowing drafts, everyone knows that.

Bobbyd12

Mark, that is just a ridiculous comment. What do you mean "when the bill comes due". FACT: Dolphins will have plenty of cap space next year. FACT: The Dolphins free agency picked up young talented players who will be here for a long time. FACT: Jeff Ireland is responsible for this defense, which may be tops in the league this year. Ireland should get an extension. I really wish bandwagon fans like you would look at the FACTS before posting. The Dolphins are good and will be getting better. Nothing you posted makes any sense.

Mark

FACT: this Dolphins team is going to have a lot of free agents this year that instantly take up all of that "cap space". Soliai and Grimes will cost easily over $15M a year combined themselves. They obviously can't afford to resign Starks, Incognito, or Jerry.

Here's what it comes down to, can Ireland draft replacements? Can he build this team through the draft and not free agency?

Answer is pretty obviously no.

Bobbyd12

Uh, no Mark. The Dolphins currently have 36 million in cap space for next year. Currently, there will be cuts that will free up more cap space. The Dolphins have no intention of resigning both Starks and Soliai, it is one or the other. Odrick is the replacement who is playing just fine. Add in you seem to forget that next year is the highest cap hit for all the players that were signed. The year after the cap hits are all lower. BTW, you believe Ireland has hit less in the draft then any other GM? If you think that you know very little about the NFL.

Mark

Ireland's drafting record is abysmal, they won't have $36M of cap space, and they don't have any contracts they can dump this offseason.

Mark

It was originally projected to be a little over $20M, and they've resigned Jone and Misi and will definitely sign Soliai to a huge deal and almost definitely resign Grimes to a huge deal.

rboud

You are so right about Morris, Barry. Coaches downplay injuries. Morris will not play next week. Sprains can really set a player back.

dUh

Morris will play next week.

Bobbyd12

They have 36 million in cap space right now for next year. I'm not gonna sit here and argue with you over FACTS that have been reported by numerous people. If you think Irelands recored is abysmal then you need to become a fan of another team. I will take what Ireland has done the past three years over any team out there. Who do you think built this defense? Who do you think saved up cap money to get this year done? Who signed Wheeler, Elerbee, Grimes, Lamar Miller, Cam Wake, Tannehill, Reshad Jones, Caleb Sturgis and so on? You must think the Dolphin Fairy came out from the sky and put this team together. The core group of this team is YOUNG and signed long term. Take your biases elsewhere. Ireland has built a good solid team.

Putney Swope

Bobbyd12,

Great post!

You constantly see the same nonsense being posted about Al Golden.

Mark

Cam Wake?

So Parcells is responsible for all the bad moves, Ireland gets credit for all the good ones?

Just watch what happens, as long as we have a GM who can't build through the draft we're doomed to continue as a mediocre football franchise.

Yea, maybe we can win the AFC East and hope beyond hope win a playoff game before we're bounced.

Watch what happens next year. He's not building towards anything, just plugging the holes he creates with expensive free agents.

FZ B

Wow, this guy Mark is totally clueless...

Bobbyd12

Mark, after this Atlanta win all I can say is GET LOST. We don't need so called fans like you, if you even are a fan.

Keepin it real always

It s clearly obvious a couple guys above simply refuse....at great length to want to give/ choose to give Ireland any props for anything.Too funny.I had my doubts for a long time too but Ireland changed my views with his LAST 2 DRAFTS and free agent signings.I give the man credit for finally doing a very good job and the Dolphins record of 3-0 reflect his efforts to improve this team.Ireland has left a strong impression with his body of work the past 2 seasons.Some people will just always gripe even if you handed them $1000.00.Whatever.

jmike

Mark. what do you mean they won't have 36 million in cap space, that's what they have period. Let's see Mark who has Ireland drafted, Tanny, Pouncey, Martin who is doing very well at LT, Hartline, Clay (14 for 203), Matthews (2 big catches on the final drive), Jerry, Odrick, Carroll, Jones, Clemons. What are you talking about. Indy doesn't have 1 player drafted in 2011 on the roster, SG doesn't have a 2nd rounder on the roster before 2011, NE's whole 2007 draft is off the roster. What are you talking about.

jmike

Mark, I see you don't know much about the cap, you can carry forward the 16 million they are under the cap this year, along with the 20 million projected for next year.

The comments to this entry are closed.