Dion Jordan’s suspension could open door for Miami Dolphins undrafted rookie Chris McCain

08/29/2014 7:01 PM

08/30/2014 2:25 AM

The final minute of the Dolphins’ preseason was, for all intents and purposes, Dion Jordan’s final minute of football for a month. Jordan’s four-game suspension officially begins Saturday.

And yet there he was on the final drive of the Rams game, getting after the quarterback with a bunch of players who might have been playing their final NFL snaps. It was strange place to find anyone taken third overall, as Jordan was in 2013; nearly half the players expected to make the Dolphins’ 53-man roster didn’t even see the field Thursday.

But there was little point in resting Jordan, who logged 36 snaps against the Rams. He is out for the season’s first four games after testing positive for a banned stimulant.

“I mean it’s really tough,” Jordan said. “Missing out on all the work that I put in leading up to this point. My guys are heading into the season with a big game, and I’m not going to be able to be there. I mean it’s unfortunate, but at the same time I mean I understand the situation I’m in, and I got to deal with the consequences.”

Jordan didn’t have much to say about how he will spend the next month. He might head back home to Chandler, Arizona but wouldn’t commit to it. He plans to keep in shape but wouldn’t tell how.

What Jordan will miss the most: the live reps in games that will help him develop. After a disappointing, injury-filled rookie season, he’s shown improvement in Year 2. And yet, he hasn’t dominated. He finished the preseason with six tackles, two quarterback hits and had a strip sack.

“I’m much better than I was last year,” Jordan said. “I’m much more healthier. I have a better knowledge of the game itself and what my role is for our defense. I went into these first four games with the mind-set that I have to take advantage of everything, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

His suspension hurts, for sure. So does the suspension of Reshad Jones, who also is out four games for failing at PEDs test. But they, in a strange way, give the Dolphins some flexibility to see if promising young players can emerge.

Example No. 1: Linebacker Chris McCain, an undrafted rookie who has been one of the team’s most pleasant surprises. McCain’s skill set is not that dissimilar to Jordan’s, although the Dolphins are using him at linebacker and not on the line.

It would be a shock if McCain isn’t part of the team’s 53-man roster when final cuts are announced Saturday. McCain closed out an impressive preseason with three tackles, two sacks and a pass breakup Thursday night.

“I mean, everybody thinks about it,” McCain said, when asked about making the team. “There’s a lot of talented guys on the defense and their option is up to the coaches, you know whatever they feel. But, I did my best, I tried, you know, on and off; had some good plays, had some bad plays, at the end of the day, it’s up to the coaches.”

McCain’s roster status is just one of several angles to monitor this busy Labor Day weekend. Here are some others:

• The trendy story this camp was how the Dolphins offense had two players with essentially the same name. Get ready for more of them, as there’s growing belief around the team that both Damien and Damian Williams make this team.

Damien Williams is the running back who appears to have beaten out Daniel Thomas for the No. 3 job (there’s still a chance the Dolphins keep on Thomas,too). And Damian Williams is the versatile veteran receiver who has impressed both on offense and in the kicking game.

What the latter’s place on the team would mean for Rishard Matthews and Marcus Thigpen remains unclear. The Dolphins would keep, at most, one of those two — and perhaps neither. Matthews might have some trade value; he would be an upgrade for several receiver-needy teams. Thigpen, who missed much of preseason with an injury, muffed a punt in his return Thursday.

• Although the Dolphins have not announced who will be their third corner on passing downs, they are privately acting as if Will Davis has won the job. Davis, who has been the team’s nickel for much of the past two weeks, will likely shadow Patriots receiver Brandon LaFell for much of the season opener on Sept. 7.

Jamar Taylor, taken a round ahead of Davis in the 2013 draft, is expected to see the field on special teams and when the Dolphins go with six defensive backs.

• By all appearances, Shelley Smith will begin the season as Miami’s starting right guard. But the Dolphins, notably, didn’t announce that Dallas Thomas would start in Smith’s place Thursday in their list of pregame lineup changes. Smith didn’t play; all 21 other starters who sat were announced.

This could mean nothing. Or it could also mean the Dolphins aren’t prepared to say who has won the job — a little over a week before the start of the season. This jibes with accounts from others close to the situation, who say they haven’t heard either way. If nothing else, coach Joe Philbin and Co. are playing this one close to the vest.

• Mike Pouncey (injured hip) for weeks has lobbied to begin the preseason on the active roster and not the physically unable to perform list. Will the Dolphins comply? He won’t be ready for the opener, but might return in about a month. They must decide his status by Saturday.
• The Dolphins cut tight end Kyle Miller on Friday. Gator Hoskins appears to have the inside track on becoming the No. 3 tight end, assuming the Dolphins don’t look outside the organization.
• Defensive end Terrence Fede probably showed enough before sustaining a knee injury that he will make the team and become the first Marist product to play in the NFL. Fede is said to be in both the team’s present and future plans.
• Barring a setback, rookie guard Billy Turner (bone bruise) will be back at practice soon — possibly as soon as Tuesday.

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