Sun Sentinel Columnist
7:38 PM EDT, July 31, 2013
Dion Jordan does not consider himself a patient man. Take traffic. He hates it. The waiting. The annoyance. But he's already come to understand in his opening weeks it's as much a part of South Florida as the sun.
"I don't like it,'' he said, "but what can you do?"
"Deal with it,'' he was told.
And there you get a glimpse into how the highest-drafted defensive player in Dolphins history deals with being listed third on the depth chart because, well, it's still early, he's still new and there still are football stripes to earn.
You deal with it.
"I'm going to work hard and help this team however I can,'' he said.
You can cut-and-paste that quote from Jordan. He's no dummy. He'll let his on-field work tell the coaches when it's time to move him up, which should be soon judging by the early returns, no matter this silly undercurrent of him being used as a part-time specialist.
Oh, really? Of the 50 players drafted in the top five overall over the last decade, only two players didn't start right from the start. And both of them, JaMarcus Russell and Philip Rivers, were quarterbacks, the most complicated position in sports.
Last summer, the furor was if Ryan Tannehill, the eighth pick in the draft, should start at quarterback. Five years ago, No. 1 pick Jake Long started from Day One at left tackle, the most valuable position on the offensive line.
The Dolphins traded up to the No. 3 position specifically for Jordan, said he was the best defensive player in the draft and want him to play a defensive end position where they had limited production last year.
But all the public talk is that he'll be a pass-rushing specialist. And contribute on special teams. And perhaps get a chance down the line to start. Really now.
Dolphins coach Joe Philbin has no inclination to bump up public expectations, preferring Jordan earn his way. And, it's true, Jordan was slowed by a shoulder injury and Oregon's academic schedule so he missed much of the offseason workouts.
But this won't last if Jordan is as advertised. And earliest reviews suggest he's all that. He had one sack and nearly a second in 10 snaps in the intra-squad scrimmage on Monday night.
"Everything we saw of him on [videotape] is what we're seeing now on the practice field,'' Philbin said.
Olivier Vernon, the second-year end from Miami, has had a great offseason and training camp. Maybe Vernon is so good he keeps Jordan off the field. Maybe he's the surprise of this season. You can't dismiss that.
But the history of defensive linemen drafted as high as Jordan say they get on the field from the start. If they're any good, they produce from the start, too.
Of the 10 players with pass-rushing skills drafted in the top five over the last decade, you immediately saw their talent. It didn't matter if they were linebackers like Von Miller or tackles like Marcell Dareus.
They produced. They starred. The five great ones in this group — Miller, Dareus, Chris Long, Mario Williams and Gerald McCoy — are still starring, too (Gaines Adams, the fourth pick in 2007, played well until his tragic death of a heart condition).
The opposite is true, too. The ones in this group who didn't flash as rookies never have. Tyson Jackson, the third pick in 2009, took a $10 million pay cut to play with Kansas City. Aaron Curry is on his third team in five seasons.
"It's pretty much what I expected — players are bigger and faster,'' Jordan said of his opening days in practice. "You have to raise your game to play at this level."
Jordan dismisses some of the reasons given for why he might not start. A new position, as he played a pass-rushing linebacker at Oregon?
"I don't consider this new to me,'' he said.
He couldn't lift weights due to his recovering shoulder?
"I've been lifting weights,'' he said.
The calendar turns to August today. It's still early. Jordan, like the Dolphins' brass, is patient. But they made him the highest-picked defensive player in team history for a reason you expect to see come September.
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