Dion Jordan hasn’t even stepped on the Miami Dolphins practice field, let alone taken a regular-season snap. But the University of Oregon defensive end already understands what the NFL is all about.
“It’s become a passing league,” Jordan said Thursday night during his news conference at Radio City Music Hall. “You need guys who can protect quarterbacks and guys who get after them.”
That’s the story of the 2013 NFL Draft.
It won’t be remembered for quarterbacks like the classes of 2012 and 1983. One didn’t get chosen in the first round until Buffalo nabbed Florida State’s E.J. Manuel at No. 16.
This year, it was all about the players who guard and pressure the passer.
For the first time in NFL history, the first six players chosen were offensive tackles or edge rushers. Jordan’s high selection was no shock considering the pre-draft buzz surrounding him as the second coming of DeMarcus Ware.
The team that chose him was.
Sitting at No. 12, the Dolphins were considered a good possibility to move higher into the first round. But conventional wisdom had Miami targeting a left tackle to replace free-agent departure Jake Long.
Two of those behemoths — Eric Fisher (Kansas City) and Luke Joeckel (Jacksonville) — were already off the board when the Dolphins leapt all the way to No. 3 by swapping picks with Oakland and making the modest surrender of a second-round choice. Rather than read the name of Oklahoma left tackle Lane Johnson when reaching the podium like most media members were predicting on Twitter, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced a player who didn’t even take a pre-draft visit to South Florida.
“There were phone calls here and there but it wasn’t like my name was being tossed around to go to the Miami Dolphins,” a smiling Jordan said.
The stealth move was another reason for Dolphins fans to celebrate what on paper might someday be remembered as the greatest offseason in franchise history.
Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland snared the top free-agent wide receiver in Mike Wallace and provided more offensive firepower to an anemic unit by signing wideout Brandon Gibson and tight end Dustin Keller. The linebacker corps was overhauled with Dannell Ellerbe and Phillip Wheeler. Other free-agent pieces were added as Ireland tried to compensate for the mistakes he made in previous drafts. And the Dolphins are still in the market for Kansas City left tackle Branden Albert, who is on the trade block.
The only way this spring can get better for the Dolphins is if Miami-Dade County voters pass a Sun Life Stadium-renovation referendum in May that will provide corporate welfare for billionaire team owner Stephen Ross.
While outside linebacker wasn’t Miami’s most pressing need, Jordan’s selection was brilliant. Cameron Wake hadn’t enjoyed a strong pass-rushing complement since Jason Taylor retired after the 2011 season. The 6-foot-6, 248-pound Jordan already has heard comparisons to Taylor because of his lanky build and athletic ability that would allow him to take some snaps at outside linebacker in 3-4 alignments.
The Dolphins now expect Jordan to accomplish what Taylor did for a decade — harass Tom Brady as Miami tries to topple New England in the AFC East.
“Brady, man, he’s a tremendous talent,” Jordan said. “He’s a staple in the NFL. To be in the NFL, obviously, it’s a heck of an opportunity to play against guys like him.
“My best attribute is getting after the quarterback. I have to take care of that part.”
Detroit and Cleveland are hoping that Brigham Young’s Ziggy Ansah and Louisiana State’s Barkevious Mingo — the ends they chose at No. 5 and No. 6 respectively — do the same. This is also why Kansas City, Jacksonville and Philadelphia, which chose Johnson at No. 4, selected tackles specifically to shield their quarterbacks from harm.