MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Almost all of the focus from Tuesday’s practice with the Miami Dolphins was on rookie defensive end Dion Jordan, who made his first appearance. Jordan’s one cog in a defensive line the Fins hope can make an impact in 2013.
When the topic of defensive line and the Dolphins comes up, it starts with Cameron Wake. The Pro Bowl defensive end has been a monster pass rusher since joining the team in 2009 and has elevated the rest of his game to match his sacking prowess.
Since 2009, Wake has made 133 total tackles, but more importantly has 43 sacks. Last season he had 15 sacks while facing near constant double-teams from opposing offensive lines. The Dolphins hoped Jared Odrick could be a pass rushing force opposite Wake, but he’s more suited to the tackle position.
The Fins also brought in Olivier Vernon from the University of Miami last season and he’s made strides since his rookie year in 2012.
“He has the mentality that you’d want for an outside linebacker/ D-end; that 250 pound kind of guy, you have to go in there and throw your body in there,” Wake said, “you have to be that kind of pit bull, you can’t say oh he’s a bigger guy than me, I’m just going to play hand fight you’ve got to throw your body in there and take that fight to that guy.”
While Vernon is expected to factor into the rotation opposite Wake, the focus is squarely on the development of Jordan. The Dolphins thought enough of him to trade up to the number three spot in the draft to select him out of the University of Oregon.
From a physical standpoint, Jordan has everything you want from a defensive end. He stands 6’6”, weighs 248 pounds, runs a 4.6 second 40-yard dash and actually went to Oregon originally as a tight end.
NFL analyst Mike Mayock said Jordan reminds him of a few recent players including Aldon Smith and DeMarcus Ware, but that he has the potential to be a player in the mold of Jason Taylor. That’s high praise for a rookie, but Jordan takes it in stride.
“Honestly, I put more pressure on myself to go out here and perform,” Jordan said. “It’s not just because I’m in the NFL now or I was drafted high. It’s something I’ve always done. I’ve got to compete every day to make myself a better player. Any time I step onto the field that’s what I try to do.”
If Jordan develops like the Dolphins hope he can throughout the season, it will give the team a fearsome pass rush to go after AFC quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.
“We are teaching him the system and getting him acclimated to the scheme, stance (and) fundamentals,” Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said. “Right now, we are getting him situated on concepts and schemes, the teaching of that, and then the fundamentals.”
Having a pair of bookend pass rushing beasts will also help the interior of the Dolphins defensive line which will be anchored by Paul Soliai and Randy Starks. Right behind them on the depth chart will be Jared Odrick and Kheeston Randall.
The trio of Soliai, Starks, and Odrick, give the Dolphins three good defensive tackles that can stop the run and push the pocket. Last season, the Dolphins defense ranked 10th in the league allowing 4.0 yards per rush.
While that’s a good number, the Fins want it to be better and believe the young defensive tackles can make that much of an impact. Still, the Dolphins need to pressure opposing quarterbacks to help increase turnovers, which were nearly non-existent for the Fins in 2013.
Miami was 29th in the league in opponent drives ending in turnovers in 2012 and the Fins know that if they want to take that next step to being in the playoffs and more importantly, advancing in the playoffs, that number has to improve.
“It’s just one of those things that you have to make the play when your opportunity comes, it’s no way you can just go out there and be like I’m going to get such and such turnovers, it’s just something that happens, if the ball pops up you’ve got to catch it,” new Dolphins linebacker Dannell Ellerbee. “We had like 23 fumbles that hit the ground last year and we only picked up 6 so, it’s just a matter of making the plays.”