The third overall pick of the 2013 NFL Draft plays just 16 to 30 snaps a game and rarely touches the quarterback in the limited number of times he gets the chance.
Dion Jordan has been back for five games since his six-game drug suspension, and the question must be asked: Are the Dolphins making the best decisions to maximize his talents? There are some smart people who believe they are not.
A respected NFL head coach has told confidantes that the Dolphins are misusing Jordan and he would be far more effective playing outside linebacker, according to someone with direct knowledge.
In Miami, Jordan could easily slide into the strong-side linebacker slot in its 4-3 defense, a spot held by Philip Wheeler, who has played even less than Jordan recently.
Two NFL people who are friends with Jordan are puzzled by how Jordan is being used, insisting he’s never going to reach his potential as a backup 4-3 defensive end playing limited snaps.
“I don’t think they have any idea how to use him; his abilities are limited by putting his hand on the ground [a lot of the time],” said one of those people, who has close ties to the Dolphins.
Jordan’s defensive coordinator at Oregon, Nick Aliotti, told me last year that Jordan would be much more effective at linebacker than defensive end.
ESPN analyst Matt Williamson, a former Browns scout whose opinion we trust, put it this way before the season: “Make Jordan your strong-side linebacker, and that allows you to get Jordan, Cam Wake and Olivier Vernon on the field more. Get your best guys out there!
“I don’t love Dion Jordan in this scheme. I see him as an outside linebacker, playing him off the line of scrimmage. He could be Von Miller, who’s a better player, in terms of how to use him. As a pure d-end, I would run right at him play after play after play. I don’t think he can hold up against the tackle and double teams consistently. He’s more of a Julian Peterson, who did a little of everything. You have to use him correctly.”
Williamson believes he could play linebacker in a 4-3 or a 3-4 defense.
One friend of Jordan said he’s too nice to complain or ask the Dolphins to move him to linebacker. And general manager Dennis Hickey has shown no inclination to tell his coaching staff how to use him.
A person close to former Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland, who drafted him, said that front office viewed him as a havoc-wreaking outside linebacker, potentially in a 3-4 defense.
Asked why it isn’t a natural move to shift Jordan to SAM linebacker (Wheeler’s spot), defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said: “We’ve got a lot of roles we are using Dion in. We’re in sub defense two out of three plays, and that’s where his role has been continuing to grow. Percentage wise, he gets on the field a lot that way now.”
Well, not exactly a lot. He has played in 36 percent of Miami’s defensive snaps since returning from suspension.
He stands up on occasion in a linebacker type role, but Jordan said he still considers himself a defensive end exclusively.
In five games since the suspension ended, Jordan has nine tackles, no sacks and four quarterback hurries. Coyle has wisely used him some in pass coverage, and he has responded well, including a well-defended pass to Detroit’s Calvin Johnson. But in 21 career games, he has just two sacks.
As long as Wake and Vernon are around, it’s difficult to envision his snaps increasing dramatically if he stays at defensive end.
But to this point, the Dolphins don’t agree with personnel people who feel he would be better at outside linebacker, nor the 800-plus people who signed Dolphins fan Neal Driscoll’s petition to move him to linebacker.
And Jordan --- who has a good attitude --- is diplomatic about the issue, saying he’s fine whatever position the Dolphins use him. At some point, it’s the player’s responsibility to perform at a level worthy of a top-five pick. But the onus is also on the coaches to find a way to extract that talent.
### This was a good day for the Dolphins, who saw the Browns, Steelers, Chiefs and Ravens all lose to fall to 7-5. That would mean the Dolphins could move into the sixth and final AFC playoff spot (by virtue of a complicated tiebreaker over five other teams) if they win at the Jets Monday to go to 7-5.
Though San Diego is 8-4, that isn't necessarily problematic for Miami because the Dolphins beat the Chargers head-to-head and because the Chargers have a tough remaining schedule: Patriots, Broncos, at 49ers, at Chiefs.
### The Dolphins' options for their No. 3 cornerback job behind Brent Grimes and Jimmy Wilson on Monday come down to a player who has 33 NFL defensive snaps (Walt Aikens), another who has none (special-teams ace Don Jones) and another (RJ Stanford) who has allowed 26 of 35 passes thrown against him to be caught in his career (for 370 yards) and who, a week ago, was learning the automotive parts distribution business and taking on-line sociology classes at Utah.
### The Dolphins were so discouraged by how they played defensively against Denver that Coyle ended the lowlight-filled film session earlier than usual. “It was basically, we’ve seen enough; time to move on to the Jets,” one Dolphins player said.
Coyle blamed himself, privately and publicly, for a few strategic decisions in the Denver game, but players did not, after having privately blamed Coyle for decisions made against Kansas City (having Wake and Jason Trusnik in coverage on faster players), Green Bay (using Wheeler in coverage on the game-winner) and Detroit (too many three-man rushes late).
### Not that we should need any reminder of what Dwyane Wade can give this Heat team when healthy, but in case you forgot, his season-high 27-point, five-rebound, five-assist game (20 in the second half) --- after missing seven games with a hamstring injury --- not only catapulted Miami past the dreadful Knicks 86-79 on Sunday night, but also helped Miami overcome subpar shooting nights by every other starter: Luol Deng (2-11), Shawne Williams (1-4), Norris Cole (1 for 3) and Chris Bosh, who shot 7 of 18 but closed with 20 and 9 rebounds.
"He has a way of making us all look better," Erik Spoelstra said after tonight's game. "He was definitely a little tired at a couple points during the game but has a way of playing at his pace. There's no question we feel a little more confident at the end of possessions when you put it in Dwyane or C.B.'s hands."
### From the grass isn’t always greener file: James Jones, who left the Heat because he didn’t believe he would get a chance to play, has logged just 15 minutes in Cleveland’s first 15 games. By the way, Mike Miller also cannot crack the Cavaliers’ rotation and is shooting 5 for 18. But the Cavaliers allowed LeBron James to dictate both signings.
### The Marlins would like to add a veteran left-hander and called about Brett Anderson (27-32, 3.72 in his career for the Athletics and Rockies)… The Marlins sold 600 full season-ticket equivalents in the first week after signing Giancarlo Stanton….
Agent Joel Wolfe managed to get bonuses in Stanton’s $325 million contract --- $100,000 for winning the MVP, $500,000 for World Series MVP, $50,000 for each All-Star appearance, among others – but admitted the Marlins (justifiably) asked him, “Why do we need bonuses of this size for a contract of that size?”
### You read UM athletic director Blake James' comments supporting Al Golden (and his commitment to Golden beyond this season) in this space on Tuesday. And before Saturday's loss to Pittsburgh, UM president Donna Shalala --- who's retiring in a few months --- also reiterated her support of the coach.
"I think we have a very successful future ahead of us," Shalala told canesport.com. "There is no question. We have a very good coaching staff. I think we have to be patient. No one except maybe Al Golden, Blake James and myself know how difficult it was while we were under the cloud of the NCAA. ...
"I talked to those parents too and helped Al recruit during that time. It was just very difficult. We could not answer questions like how long this was going to take, what is this going to mean for the program.
And so in many ways this is Al's first year, and we've invested in him and his staff. We've invested in facilities. The future is very bright."
UM will end up in a low-profile bowl game, perhaps St. Pete or Shreveport or Detroit or Annapolis.
### Colorado State coach Jim McElwain, whose team is 10-2, has emerged as the leading candidate for the Gators job, Yahoo's Pat Forde reported tonight. Forde said Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze is also on the Gators' short list.
### A couple of Texas cities have approached David Beckham’s group about an MLS team --- San Antonio and Austin want franchises --- but Beckham’s people have told them they’re still focusing on trying to find the right stadium site in Miami.
### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz