ORLANDO --- No team received fewer offensive and defensive snaps from its rookie class than the Dolphins last season. But Joe Philbin made clear this morning that he expects the 2013 class to assume more prominent roles this season, starting with Dion Jordan and the rookie cornerbacks.
“We have a lot of hope for that draft class,” Philbin said from the NFL owners meetings in Orlando. “You usually see a significant jump from year one to year two.”
Philbin said he sees Jordan as a defensive end primarily, not a linebacker. That creates challenges in creating playing time behind starters Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon, especially because Philbin said reserve end Derrick Shelby deserves playing time also. (Shelby played 446 snaps last season, Jordan 339).
Nevertheless, Jordan "will make a big jump this year,” Philbin predicted today. “We expect his role to expand. He played  snaps. We definitely want to see that increase. The most natural place is on third down. He’s going to have to have more snaps on first and second down. I think he will have a very good season. We know he has a lot of talent. He plays fast. When he did get snaps, they were quality. We see his role increasing somewhat.”
Philbin denied a published report that the coaching staff was dissatisfied with Jordan and his work ethic. “Not sure where that came from,” Philbin said. “He’s definitely a hard worker. He loves the game.”
He said Jordan’s progress was limited somewhat last season because of his offseason shoulder surgery ---the shoulder injury was aggravated during training camp --- and because his Oregon class schedule didn’t permit him to report until June.
“He missed a good number of practices at training camp,” Philbin said. “We don’t have a ton of individual time [during the season]. He missed a lot because of the academic calendar and injuries in the spring."
But he suggested he’s not going to bench the undrafted Shelby to play Jordan a ton more. “Shelby was one of the highest graders we had on the defensive line,” Philbin said. “Derrick Shelby earned every snap. We expect Dion will as well.”
Here’s what Philbin said to say about the other members of the 2013 draft class:
### At the moment, Jamar Taylor and Will Davis are in the top four cornerback rotation and both will have a chance to beat out Cortland Finnegan for a starting job.
“We expect to see progress there,” Philbin said of Taylor and Davis. “Whoever performs best should be the starting cornerback. Those are guys we thought highly of. They had injury issues. Will was having a really good training camp; he was getting his hands on the ball a lot. That's what jumped out at us. Jamar's play speed attracted us to him in the film evaluation a year ago.” Davis played just 65 defensive snaps last season, Taylor 45.
### Philbin said the Dolphins staff needs “to find a home” for Dallas Thomas, who played just two snaps last season. He said he’s not sure whether he’s better at guard or tackle but could play either.
Philbin said Thomas has been one of the “hardest-working guys” in the team’s offseason program but the staff needs “to give him a place to anchor down. It’s a matter of consistency, gaining trust and confidence of himself and the guy next to him.
“One of the things that intrigued us when we watched him is when he played left tackle. We don't anticipate that's where he's going to be. He's going to give us roster flexibility --- either right tackle or one of the guards. He can play at either guard position. Once the dust settles, we'll figure out where the best spot is for Dallas Thomas to reach his potential. That's on us to figure it out. You want a guy to get comfortable and acclimated. A [starting job] is certainly a possibility. There's a lot of opportunity in the offensive line. We're an equal opportunity [employer] there.”
### Philbin said tight end Dion Sims, who played 280 offensive snaps, “has a chance to be a very good blocker in this league. I like what I see in that area. And he has soft hands.” But he said “his play speed has to become more consistent” and that on tape, “there were pictures of him being indecisive” at times. “But there’s a lot to work with.”
### Philbin said he does “not have a great feel yet” for Mike Gillislee as a running back but liked his work on special teams. He played only nine offensive snaps last season. He also likes the special teams work of seventh-round pick Don Jones.
### Linebacker Jelani Jenkins got more work late in the season and could earn playing on third down.
“He's very bright guy and picked up the system well," Philbin said. "He's athletic and has good zone awareness and has the skill set to run with receivers and play man-to-man. We hope he pushes for play time.”
### On Caleb Sturgis, who was a somewhat disappointing 26 for 34 on field goals, Philbin said: “He has all the qualities you look for. You see the leg strength and accuracy; there was a little spell there with a little inconsistency. We have to work through that and we will. I expect him to improve.”
### Regarding running back Knowshon Moreno --- who visited the Dolphins on Friday --- Denver coach John Fox said Moreno can return to the Broncos if he wishes, and we hear rumblings another team (besides Miami) also has him on their radar. The Dolphins remain interested but only at a price with which they’re comfortable. They remain in contact with his agent.
Moreno, who liked his visit to Miami, wasn't done considering his options as of late Monday night. One person with knowledge of the situation said it’s a toss-up whether he signs here and it could go either way at this point.
Maurice Jones-Drew remains an option, but the Dolphins haven’t yet been motivated to bring him in for a visit. Philbin declined to discuss Jones-Drew but left the door open on Moreno.
### Philbin said his linebackers need to be more consistent and that Lamar Miller must “break more tackles.”… He said he expects Dannell Ellerbe to improve playing middle linebacker but left open the possibility of moving Ellerbe outside…. He said Branden Albert and Shelley Smith are good scheme fits for the Dolphins’ offensive line and that Miami will remain a zone blocking team… He said the deep ball chemistry between Ryan Tannehill and Mike Wallace must improve, and that will be a focus. But he said there’s no bigger priority on offense for him than pass protection.
### Philbin indicated the Dolphins tendered receiver Armon Binns. But offensive linemen Danny Watkins and Will Yeatman were not tendered, according to their agents.
### Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said the seventh-rounder that the Ravens acquired from the Dolphins for Bryant McKinnie will be in 2015, not 2014 as had been widely reported.
### Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson raved about Erik Spoelstra’s speech to the Seattle team last summer, but Philbin indicated no plans to bring in the Heat coach to address his players. “I have great respect for him, for what he does as a coach,” Philbin said. Philbin added that he and Spoelstra have texted several times but not spoken.
### Check out Armando's Dolphins blog for more from Philbin, and check back here later for more updates from the NFL meetings in Orlando.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz